This Sam Raimi-produced natural disaster thriller wastes no time getting going and maintains a breakneck pace throughout its 87-minute run time. Artistry is not the aim of Crawl – the main plot points and jump scares are predictable. The relentlessness of the pace and the inventiveness of the human-vs.-nature battle, however, make the film first-rate fun.
Nothing is subtle in the setup: Haley (Kaya Scodelario) swims for the Gators, and in flashbacks we see her father and coach Dave (Barry Pepper) telling her that, in the race lane, she must become the alpha predator. Back in the present day, Haley has to drive headlong into a hurricane to check on her incommunicado father and finds herself face-to-face with massive gators – emboldened by the flooding – in his basement. This is what she has spent her life training for, right? Thankfully, there is full commitment to this ridiculous thematic thread, establishing that Crawl is here for pure audience entertainment – even if the human protagonists have an horrific time of it.
Crawl does an excellent job of selling alligators as the perfect killing machines, and watching the father-daughter team exploit the predators’ weaknesses as they attempt to stay ahead of the rising floodwaters proves thrilling without tipping into complete unbelievability. The tension and gore are occasionally broken by tongue-in-cheek framing – sometimes, watching the hungry beasts sneak up on people is funny. Scodelario is a strong, sympathetic lead, convincingly tough without losing the fraught emotional baggage within her family.
Crawl may hit predictable beats, but the continual escalation of each threat moves so rapidly that no respite is found until the credits roll. Not one for those with climate disaster anxieties or fear of large aquatic reptiles. For everyone else, it’s a grand time.
CAST: Kaya Scodelario, Barry Pepper, Ross Anderson, Anson Boon
DIRECTOR: Alexandre Aja
WRITERS: Michael Rasmussen, Shawn Rasmussen
SYNOPSIS: When a young swimmer can’t get in touch with her father during a hurricane, she heads through the evacuation zone to find him and ends up face to face with alligators emboldened by the flooding.