(3 / 5)
Crawl is a perfectly evolved creature feature, a high-concept survival thriller that keeps low to the ground and shows that all you need to ratchet up the tension is a confined space, a ticking clock, and maybe a couple of alligators.
With a Category 5 hurricane bearing down on Florida and a widescale evacuation in progress, swim student Haley (Kaya Scodelario) makes a trip to the old family home; seeking out her estranged father Dave (Barry Pepper) who’s gone incommunicado. She doesn’t expect to find him in the crawlspace, nor in the vicinity of two very large alligators.
Director Alejandro Aja largely reigns in the stomping and the snapping, focusing instead on the father-daughter dynamic as the two struggle to survive. While the injured Dave is mostly immobile, forced to rely on a length of pipe and grim determination, Crawl presents Haley as close to an action hero; creeping through the substructure like Ripley in Aliens or leaping from one piece of debris to the next atop the murky water like Ice Cube in that kitchen scene in Deep Blue Sea.
Similar to Jaume Collet-Serra’s use of negative space in The Shallows, Aja ramps up the tension through keeping Haley in hard focus; hinting at the terror that could be lurking nearby in the darkness. The gators are at their deadliest when you don’t know where they are, lurking just beneath the surface, or navigating the surging flood waters of the cul-de-sac; though even getting chomped on doesn’t slow her down for long.
The domestic setting is a deeply symbolic one, but Michael and Shawn Rasmussen’s script keeps the family drama at surface level – Ordinary People with alligators this ain’t. Still, with its handful of gory takedowns and at least one killer line reading (courtesy of Mr. Pepper), and all at a snappy 87 minutes, Crawl is a brutally efficient exercise in tension.
Hurry to see it.