Main cast: Kaya Scodelario (Haley Keller), Barry Pepper (Dave Keller), Anson Boon (Stan), Jose Palma (Pete), George Somner (Marv), Ami Metcalf (Lee), and Moryfydd Clark (Beth Keller)
Director: Alexandre Aja
A hurricane, hungry alligators, and idiots trapped in the fast flooding up crawlspace of a big house – Crawl is determined to take a big bite out of everyone’s frayed nerves. It’s a surprisingly solid edge of seat romp… at least until the movie runs out of tricks and settles into a predictable kind of tedium.
Haley Keller is a dour college swimmer – played appropriately by Kaya Scold, er Scodelario – whose parents are in the midst of divorce, and if you ask her, it’s because daddy Dave loves her more than mommy. Dave also pushes Haley hard to be the best swimmer ever, telling her that she is an “apex predator”, so Haley almost bursts into tears in the opening scene when she doesn’t come in first during training. It’s a good thing that she’s a swimmer and not, say, a fat lady more of a whale than any apex predator, as she will soon have to brave the depths and dampness of the crawlspace of her former family home when a hurricane hits her hometown and her father doesn’t reply to anyone’s calls.
It turns out that, in this movie, the Kellers are apparently incapable of checking their phones, bring these phones with them, or doing much else with them because none of them realize until it’s almost too late that a hurricane is about to hit them all. Hence, Dave was down to the old family home to board up things when he was attacked in the crawlspace by an alligator and was rendered unconscious. Apparently he was just lying there, knocked out… and somehow the alligators let him be all the while? Maybe the chompers are sneaky things that set him out as bait, because the moment Haley is in the scene, they show up and hello, where’s the buffet, bitch. These alligators are from the nearby alligator farm, which makes me wonder whether the owners are really going to be sued to the gills once the hurricane abates.
Haley and Dave are one-dimensional stereotypes who for some reason can bicker about her training while alligators are breathing down on them. Really, for the most part, the movie plays the man versus monster thing straight, but there are also jarring moments when the characters indulge in inappropriately-timed quips, or the movie tries to make death scenes comical, that I get considerable tonal whiplash watching the whole thing. There is no consistency in tone – the movie can abruptly shift gears from quip-a-thon and back again – and hence, I find myself feeling tad confused as to what this movie wants to be.
The dumb moments can’t come soon enough, such as Haley making all her effort to retrieve her phone only to stupidly stand there in the open and trying to call the police instead of, oh I don’t know, running back to the safe area and calling from there. Of course she nearly gets eaten, what a surprise, and in the process she is separated from Dave and her phone is crushed under an alligator’s weight. Despite having pocket protectors and other convenient handyman stuff, Dave of course leaves his phone up there, and of course the phone is running low on battery. They have a dog with them, so of course there will be a pointless “We’re almost… oh no, we have to turn back and save that thing!” moment. Just let that thing die and buy a new dog – any canine that can’t have the sense to flee from an alligator deserves to be eaten.
Then there are the tired jump scares. By coincidence, I re-watched Jaws shortly before Crawl hits the neighborhood cinemas, and I can only wonder why a far older movie can do jump scares in a far more frightening manner than a present day movie. What happened? Here, the jump scares are unearned – they are of the “silence… SMASH! SURPRISE! It’s… nothing, fooled ya!” sort or an unearned “Boo!” that shows up without any build up to lead to that jump scare. Even then, most of the jump scares are the pinnacle of a scene in which the main characters flail around after doing something dense. The shtick in this movie quickly becomes predictable, tedious, and boring.
In the end, Crawl is, I suppose, decent enough for an afternoon of lazy jump scares. It doesn’t manage to capitalize on the momentum set up in its first twenty or so minutes, though, and is content to remain forgettable and generic. Still, it could be worse, I suppose – Dave could have been played by The Rock and things would really go down the toilet when this new Dave punches an alligator right through the wall.