Student-athlete Haley Keller (Kaya Scodelario) is a competitive swimmer whose father Dave (Barry Pepper) coached her in her youth. Since her parents’ divorce, they have grown apart. One day, she gets a call from her sister telling her a Category 5 hurricane is on the way. Hayley becomes worried for their dad’s safety when he doesn’t answer his phone so she drives to his house. Soon the pair find themselves trapped in a flooding basement, fighting for their lives against an alligator that has broken into the house.
Since breaking out on the series ‘Skins’, Kaya Scodelario has scored some big blockbuster franchises including ‘The Maze Runner’ and ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’. Taking the part of a scream queen might seem like a step back but clearly she saw the potential of ‘Crawl’, which got good early buzz. Turns out it was totally deserved.
It’s been a funny season for blockbusters and it’s a strange thing to say ‘Crawl’ may be the perfect summer movie but with its comparability to the likes of ‘Jaws’ and ‘Snakes on a Plane’ (there’s even a quote – “we’re gonna beat these pea-brain lizard shits”), that might not be too much of a stretch. Initially, with the obligatory broken family narrative and early reveal of the monster – an average in quality CGI alligator – one isn’t too impressed. But as the story moves along at a breath-taking pace with suspenseful turns and dramatic deaths, one gets sucked in.
The basement space in which much of the action takes place is the perfect setting for a horror – dark, damp and grotesque with rats running around, piles of shit, and dead, rotting animal corpses scattering the place. As it floods, the place becomes all the more frightening and hazardous. Though not without some stupid decisions on the part of the protagonist and certain plot points that make no sense (ever notice how different rules seem to apply to the heroes versus the victims?), there are a satisfactory number of jump scares for those seeking thrills and the finale goes so nuts - becoming a game of ‘The floor is lava’ - it is truly exhilarating.
Having directed such films as ‘The Hills Have Eyes’ remake, ‘Piranha 3D’, and that surreal Daniel Radcliffe movie ‘Horns’, Alejandre Aja goes forth confidently with his latest mad movie, and totally pulls it off. It’s fun, riveting, impressively taut (coming in at of under 90 mins, it’s ideal for a movie night out or in), and the kind of film you can see yourself returning to over and over again with your mates.