When comes to creature features involving wild animals, sharks often get the most love for all things cinematic in Hollywood. For instance, recent shark movies including The Shallows (2016), 47 Meters Down (2017) and The Meg (2018) were all seen during the crowded summer season for the past three years in a row.
It’s not that I dislike shark movies. But once in a while, it’s nice to see something different for a change. Which in this case, Alexandre Aja’s Crawl features alligators instead of sharks. The synopsis: Haley (Kaya Scodelario) and her injured father (Barry Pepper) are both trapped in the crawl space of their family home following a Category 5 hurricane in Florida. Rising floodwaters are least of their concerns, as both of them soon realise they have to deal with hungry alligators as well.
Alexandre Aja is no stranger to making a creature feature, having directed the gleefully violent Piranha 3D nine years ago. As expected in Crawl, he never shies away from gore, violence as well as brutal consequences of dealing with an alligator.
Clocking a little under 90 minutes, he also keeps the pace lean and tight while finding efficient time to establish the estranged daughter-father relationship between Kaya Scodelario’s Haley and Barry Pepper’s Dave without stalling the momentum. It also helps that both of them each give above-average performances, which are actually saying a lot for this kind of genre movie. So, don’t be surprised if you find yourself rooting for them emotionally or even feeling genuinely amused with some of Dave’s dry sense of humour every now and then.
Kudos also go to Aja for staging some of the effective yet well-timed suspenseful moments, particularly the way he executes close calls and near-death experiences during the few encounters with one or sometimes more alligators. Several jump scares are also employed in this movie but thankfully, Aja does not utilise them for the sake of cheap thrills just to evoke the viewers’ reactions.
The computer-generated alligators look surprisingly convincing as well, given the fact it was reportedly made for a measly budget of around US$14 million. But at the same time, making such a high-concept genre movie with a limited budget has a downside and this can be evidently seen with some of the spotty CGI during the hurricane and flash flood sequences.
While Crawl mostly delivers the goods, some scenes tend to look curiously over-the-top which doesn’t really match the movie’s overall grim and serious tone. The final third-act is a little anticlimactic, where Aja could have done more to crank up the tension. If you can look past through some of the shortcomings here, Crawl remains a fun little movie worth watching on the big screen.