Director: Alexandre Aja
Writers: Michael Rasmussen, Shawn Rasmussen
Cast: Kaya Scodelario, Barry Pepper
Running time: 87mins
What’s the story: Haley (Scodelario) returns home in a Category 5 storm to reunite with her father (Pepper). She soon finds herself in a flooding house, battling two alligators.
What’s the verdict: Crawl is a perfectly evolved creature feature. A high-concept survival thriller, it keeps low to the ground and shows that all you need to ratchet 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 makes a trip to the old family home, seeking out her estranged father Dave, who’s gone incommunicado.
She doesn’t expect to find him in the crawlspace, nor in the vicinity of two sizeable alligators.
Largely reining in the stomping and snapping, director Alexandre Aja focusses 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, Haley is close to action hero status.
Whether creeping through the substructure like Ripley in Aliens or leaping from one piece of debris to the next atop the murky water. Even getting on the wrong side of one gator’s toothy grin doesn’t slow her down for long.
Similar to Jaume Collet-Serra’s use of negative space in The Shallows, Aja ramps up tension by keeping Haley in hard focus and hinting at the terror that could be lurking mere feet away, shrouded in darkness. The gators are at their deadliest when hidden, lurking just beneath the surface, or navigating the surging flood waters of the cul-de-sac.
The crawlspace location is deeply (pun intended) symbolic, but Michael and Shawn Rasmussen’s script keeps the family drama at surface level – Chomping On Ordinary People this ain’t.
Still, with its handful of gory takedowns, at least one killer line reading (courtesy of Mr. Pepper), and a snappy 87 minutes all in, Crawl is a brutally efficient exercise in suspense you should hurry to see.