Running time: 87 minutes
Written by: Michael Rasmussen and Shawn Rasmussen
Directed by: Alexandre Aja
Featuring: Kaya Scodelario and Barry Pepper
Dave: “We can defeat these pea-brained lizard shits.”
One of the better and more surprising thriller/horror movies has been released on Blu-ray/DVD in the form of the underrated movie “Crawl” (2019) which is one of the better small budget movies that not only is extremely economical but takes full advantage of almost every kind of film making technique available including a tightly plotted script and a small cast that all work together to produce something quite unique in today’s movie going environment.
I have made the point before but the past ten years has been a bonanza for genre movies, especially horror, not only does there seem to be more being produced than ever before, especially with the advent of cheap film making equipment, more quality filmmakers entering the genre as well as more production companies realising there is money to be made, especially with the increase in online streaming services. This is where Jason Blum and his Blumhouse production company has entered the market finding a cost/revenue model that works for them, partnering with a major distribution partner in Universal and not limiting itself to theatrical projects, but also partnering with Netflix. This new movie, “Crawl” is actually a Paramount production and has as one of its producers, genre expert Sam Raimi whose influence is all over this, with a very small geographic area, a localized threat, isolation as a theme and a host of other elements genre fans will recognize. Interestingly when Paramount released this movie they essentially dumped it with little actual support but the quality shone through and on a small budget managed to gross almost US$100 million globally, a success in anyones books.
While not strictly a horror movie this is definitely genre adjacent as it is a taught thriller that holds together very well considering the concept of it. Sure the two characters are bitten multiple times and I wonder how they would still function after many attacks but it is possible to just accept these elements and go with it, you will jump many times as the alligators attack relentlessly throughout. “Crawl” is directed by horror genre maestro Alexandre Aja who has directed some of the better examples of these movies over the past twenty years. Some of the better examples of Aja’s world are the remakes “The hills have eyes”(2006) and “Piranha 3D” (2010), the original “Mirrors” (2008) and the Joe Hill adaptation “Horns” (2013) all of these movies are as different as each other but have quite a bit of style to go with their substance, something unusual to maintain over a career in horror. In fact speaking of style “Crawl” actually has some unique and gorgeous looking wide shots that take advantage of the mise en scène as well as the background digital paintings making it look like a real category 5 storm, something even more amazing considering the budget.
The movie revolves around aspiring University of Florida swimmer Haley Keller receives a call from her sister, Beth, who informs her that Category 5 Hurricane Wendy is on a collision course with Florida and advises her to get out of the state. Haley is concerned for the safety of her father Dave, as he is not answering his phone. Against the instructions of Florida State Police, Haley drives around evacuation routes to check in on Dave. Haley navigates the flooded streets and find Dave’s truck at their family home. She descends into the crawl space underneath the house finding her father unconscious and wounded. When she tries to drag him out, her exit is cut off by large and ravenous alligators that Dave believes got into the house via a storm drain open to the crawl space. From here the story plays out as a thriller as the two attempt to flee the storm while avoiding the alligators.
“Crawl” is pretty much a two hander with Kaya Scodelario as the lead and Barry Pepper in a supporting role as her father, so much could have gone wrong at this point as the leads chemistry is vital for this movie to succeed and these two make this movie eminently more watchable as they feed off each other in the very best way possible. Relative newcomer Scodelario has been a few big budget movies so far but really has failed to make an impact mainly due to the inherent weaknesses in those movies, however here she really has to bring her A game as this is not only a physically demanding role but she also needs to emote in a short amount of time, to her credit he acting is very good and believable. Barry Pepper who as become a character actor lends his experience and professionalism as a father who is lost both figuratively and literally, he is the ying to his daughters yang, he has a steady head, knowing what will get them out of the danger they find themselves in as well knowing who his daughter is, which is something she has been missing, very well written characters indeed.
“Crawl” also has two other major elements that play into its watchability, they are the use of its special effects and its running time. This a movie that runs less than ninety minutes which by todays standard is short as the average movie in cinemas can run well over two hours which in some cases feels like a mammoth hurdle, I mean even some comedies are over two hours and sometimes the plots are far thinner than “Crawls”. I loved the fact that this was not only tightly scripted but was set in one major geographic location, it was easy to follow but had a depth that is also lacking in many horror/thrillers. The other aspect are the special effects, both the practical and CGI, they are seamlessly interwoven so that most of the time the audiences can suspend their own disbelief. Sure some of the alligator effects can look a little choppy but for this movie they work well especially considering the amount of alligators and the fact you see their full bodies in any given shot.
If you are a horror fan or just a fan of good edge of your seat movie watching then you could much worse than “Crawl”, it is exactly what it says it is, there is no need to have lowered expectations as this is a quality low budget thriller with a dramatic underscore.