Both the weakness and the strength of CRAWL is how simple and slight it is. On one hand, I felt like it was already dissipating from my brain by the time I got home. On the other hand it’s refreshing to see something that just gets in there and gets it done and says “okay, bye.” It’s a monster movie meets disaster movie – alligators attack a house during a hurricane – but it doesn’t fuck around with any before and after or unneeded explanations.

When Haley (Kaya Scodelario, CLASH OF THE TITANS) gets out of the opening credits swimming practice, the hurricane is already approaching. When she tracks down her not-answering-his-phone dad (Barry Pepper, THE THREE BURIALS OF MELQUIADES ESTRADA) in the crawlspace under her childhood home, he has already been bitten by a huge alligator. I think only one sentence of dialogue is spent on speculating how the gators got in there (later confirmed visually), and not one word on why they’re so big. It takes place over one day, it’s all over in 87 minutes and it concludes with a freeze frame. No wind-down, epilogue or sequel tease. That’ll do, pig.

I went because of director Alexandre Aja, who showed so much promise with HIGH TENSION (despite the infamous plot twist) and especially THE HILLS HAVE EYES. I don’t feel like he’s fulfilled his potential, but I pretty much like all his movies I’ve seen. This is only his second film not based on a previous movie or a novel, but he didn’t write the screenplay (that was Michael & Shawn Rasmussen, THE WARD) – I don’t know if that means it’s a fire-hire gig or not.

But it’s a good workout for his directorial chops. I love it when movies are constructed like this. As Haley looks for her dad we see all these things that will be relevant later. Here’s the cop who will come try to help her (Ross Anderson, UNBROKEN). Here’s a swing set something will get caught on. Here’s a screwdriver on the ground, a clue to dad’s whereabouts and current activities that will also be used to stab an alligator later. When it showed the pencil marks charting the growth of Haley and her sister (Morfydd Clark, PRIDE + PREJUDICE + ZOMBIES) I thought it was to remind us of her connection to the house – she grew up here, so she knows the lay of the land. But later I realized it was also to show us how deep the water gets. And of course her background in swimming is the key to her relationship with her dad, her striving for excellence and oh yeah, her ability to swim fast and hold her breath in long, gripping set pieces.

It must’ve been a fuckin nightmare to film – so much of it takes place in a flooded house or town that it might’ve been a relief when all they had to do was crawl around on a muddy floor. There are underwater stunts, boats, floating debris, and of course digital (and animatronic?) alligators, all well executed. The hurricane, the downpour and the storm clouds are very detailed and, when not causing danger, make for a spooky atmosphere.

It was kinda funny to me that the trailer said “from Sam Raimi, the producer of EVIL DEAD” – in other words, the producer of the remake of the movie he directed. But they were right – that’s actually more relevant information. It’s another case of him shepherding a younger director from another country making a down and dirty, nice looking and pretty kickass little piece of entertainment. And I wouldn’t be surprised if using Bill Haley & the Comets’ version of “See You Later, Alligator” for the end credits was his idea.

CRAWL is not nearly as vicious or gory as EVIL DEAD, but it does follow Raimi’s rule that “you must taste blood to be a man.” So get ready for a compound fracture or two. Both Haley and her dad get bitten, dragged and gatorhandled in ways that seem like they should’ve taken limbs off, but neither of them gets off easy. Dad is never seen in walking shape, so it’s kind of a thrilling moment when the flooding makes him more mobile. And Haley wraps up her wounds and keeps going, like John McClane.

It makes clever use of the limited location of this house and yard where most of the movie takes place. They go from below to inside the house to outside and the setting transforms as the water gets higher and they have to climb on counters, float on debris, or get to the roof. I like when they (SPOILER) manage to get across the street and into a boat and then the levees break and a big wave knocks them right back into the house.

Of course within this tight disaster framework the screenwriters fit in a whole arc about Haley and dad’s estrangement and how going through this together causes them to talk it out and repair things. It’s kinda forced but kinda sweet. We hear from Haley’s sister that she’s stubborn like her dad, and this does check out. It’s a personality trait that causes him to stay too long trying to repair the house, for his daughters to believe he might’ve refused to evacuate, and for Haley to ignore everyone’s warnings and drive toward the storm to try to find him, even sneaking past a road block into town.

Scodelario is really good. I didn’t recognize her from anything and completely accepted her as this person. She’s so determined, a little crazy and has a sense of humor, so she was easy to watch and root for. And I already liked Pepper. It’s exciting to see him as a co-lead again.

I would be remiss not to mention this has the best dog I’ve seen in a movie in a while. I’m not saying Sugar is as cool as the nut-biters in JOHN WICK CHAPTER 3, but even as a non-dog person I was really captivated by him/her as an actual character. A heroic dog whose actions make survival possible.

This entry was posted on Monday, July 29th, 2019 at 12:52 pm and is filed under Horror, Monster, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

35 Responses to “Crawl”

  1. One of the best films of 2019 for me. Love the way they introduced the opening tile credits.

  2. Oh man, I loved this movie, such a huge pleasant surprise (I hadn’t even heard of it before someone suggested I go see it.) I’m a big fan of movies that are not any longer than they need to be, and of movies that don’t !@#$ around with an unnecessary epilogue or denouement, and this one was a great example.

  3. Had a lot of fun with this. The ending is crazy abrupt. The credits are like, “What’s your problem, beat it, asshole!” I agree that it’s insubstantial, but I think it will hold up over time and be a fun one to dig out every so often. It asks so little, is so ruthlessly efficient, and the rate of fun/tension/shock per minute is excellent.

  4. Kaya Scodelario really impressed me.

  5. I kind of wish at some point before he died we would have gotten a Sam Raimi produced, Wes Craven directed movie.

  6. Really enjoyed this one. Comes in, does it’s job and gets out within about 90 mins. I wish more theatrical movies had this kind of restraint. Good attention to detail in the way it sets things up and pays it off. I agree, the use of the height chart to indicate water depth was really clever.

    There are lots of good movies about killer semi-aquatic reptiles, but most are about crocodiles (ROGUE is probably my favourite), so CRAWL might be my favourite killer alligator movie if only by default. I immediately thought of Tobe Hooper’s EATEN ALIVE (1976), but I think that’s technically a crocodile. I also thought of LAKE PLACID (did you know there have been six LAKE PLACID movies?!) but that’s about a croc too. There’s ALLIGATOR (1980), which I have seen but remember very little about, and a DTV sequel from 1991. Anyone else have any suggestions (alligators only)?

    Shoutout to Aja’s PIRANHA 3D, which I rewatched prior to seeing this. Still holds up.

  7. The Allusionist

    July 30th, 2019 at 3:50 am

    “Alligator” from 1980 is a great little horror movie. Definitely worth a rewatch, CrustaceanLove, especially if you don’t remember it well. It has a clever script by John Sayles, who also wrote “Piranha” in his journeyman screenwriter days. It’s a horror movie that isn’t afraid to kill off sacred cows mercilessly and unsentimentally. And it’s pretty funny in spots, too, especially Henry Silva as a Great White Hunter type who city officials hire to kill the beast (he’s a far more buffoonish variation on the Quint character in “Jaws”, perhaps).

  8. This sounds suspiciously like SAN ANDREAS, which I am ashamed to admit that I have watched on mute at least three times just because of the blue eyed girl in it. That movie could have used some alligators.

  9. Agree with Felix. This one was great and I loved it. Really want to see more of these smaller taut thrillers.

  10. I agree with ya’ll that this is one of the better films of 2019. Definitely the best action thriller of the year, although I suppose there haven’t been a lot of those released this year. For me it’s shaping up to be a great movie year! The best in a while actually with fun ones like Captain Marvel, Shazam!, Endgame, Godzilla, Crawl and Spider-Man Far From Home. Decent comedies that made me laugh out loud like Long Shot and Booksmart. Near masterpieces like John Wick 3, Us, and Midsommar and finally masterpieces like Once Upon A Time In Hollywood (and hopefully It (fingers triple crossed while chanting the Ritual of Chud quietly under my breath) which I hope is a possibility based on the teasers so far) also hopefully The Irishman and It’s A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood) and of course there’s always the faint Hope clause of The Last Jedi although masterpiece is too strong a word for that one probably bug hopefully it fits into the fun category at least!

  11. I’m generally a pretty steady guy, but I have a real irrational fear of “big things in the water trying to eat me”-type of scenarios, so I’m going to have to wait to catch this one on the small screen. That scene from JURASSIC WORLD kinda messed me up, and I still haven’t brought myself to see THE MEG.

  12. I loved this movie. I saw it twice and it was even better the second time around. Knowing how it ends (IMPLIED SPOILERS AHEAD), it becomes less about the horror and suspense and more just a really entertaining story about survival. This movie respects its leads. Two flawed but really strong people who are fighting to survive not just an environmental crisis but a family crisis. On first watch the family stuff did feel a little shoehorned in, but my second time I was totally absorbed and felt it much more deeply. I love horror movies but this one really hit home for me the fact that I’m way more interested in stories about survivors than ones about victims.

  13. Funny how most of the comments I’ve read about this movie (not just here) are about how short it is. Sign of the horror movie times, I guess. Honestly, I was ready for it to end. Once they got upstairs in the house, I kind of felt like they were stretching to come up with things to make happen. SPOILER

    I felt dead certain the helicopter was going to crash prior to the rescue. The scenes in the crawl space were just fantastically well done. I am sure this is going to be one of those movies that I will always watch when I catch it passing by on TV.

  14. And I loved it, BTW. I re-read my comment, and wasn’t sure if that was clear.

  15. SPOILER….I too was prepared to see the helicopter fall out of the sky. And then the angle of the last shot is totally setting up a final surprise gator appearance. I love how the movie winked at the possibilities without actually going there.

  16. In addition to the freeze-frame on the final image, they also pulled a slow motion last minute jump over the shower door. If they had just done that thing where somebody jumps through a glass window and they replay it three times in slow motion, I would have had bingo on things I haven’t seen in a major motion picture since the mid-90s.

    It’s nice to have something solid, short and fun in the cinema.

  17. I caught this at the drive-in (aka: the absolute perfect place for it), and there were a couple movie-dork guys caddy-corner to me that seemed really put-off by it’s brevity (“was that even feature length?” “maybe they ran out of money before they could film an ending?” “It should of been half-price since it was a half-movie”)

    I kept flashing back to this Michael Bay interview where the interviewer gave him shit for bloated running times and he responded “Well. I believe in giving people their money’s worth.” Which at the time, I thought was beyond asinine, but now I think he may have a point.

  18. Allusionist: Thanks for the recommendation, I’ll have to track it down for a rewatch. To be honest my memories of it blend together with the dozens of post-JAWS creature features of that era. I do remember Henry Silva as a Quint-a-like.

  19. THE SHALLOWS is good as well.

  20. I liked how they ended the movie with a freeze frame of Haley smiling at her father. I give them credit for not ending the movie with a “No, Barry Pepper didn’t die of massive blood loss” scene where he’s walking on the beach with Haley or whatever.

    I also liked how Haley and Barry Pepper initially had what felt like a gruff buddy cop relationship.

  21. I could use more of these lean and mean movies in my life. Collet-Serra has made an entire career out of pumping these out, and they’re immensely enjoyable. Life was another film that was unjustly overlooked, but it’s a really good, solid Alien knockoff with a nice mean streak.

    I get why these sorts of films aren’t as common as they should be. Ticket prices have been increasing, people have less disposable income, and there are more options vying for our time. Audiences now want a movie that’s going to give them “value.” And I’m not against watching a three hour movie, but I would like more variety.

  22. Now this is what I’m talking about. Just a happy goddamn little no-frills thrill machine, finely tuned to satisfy all of your classic scary movie needs. Want suspense? We got that! Like jump scares? Here’s a couple great ones! More of a gore guy? Can we interest you in some light dismemberment? (Creeping psychological dread? Sorry, that’s out of season at this time. Perhaps you’d like to sample our deluxe survival horror buffet?) Pack it all together with some imposing monsters, a unique setting, and characters you don’t want to see get masticated at the nearest opportunity and you have a full-service horror experience that doesn’t waste your time or blow smoke up your ass. It’ll work just as well as if it’s your fifth horror movie or your five thousandth. I had a ball.

  23. This is exactly the kind of picture we need more of: Straightforward thrills, precise filmatism, no post-ironic tomfoolery, less than 90 minutes long. Fuck that Michael Bay nonsense that making a film longer means giving people their money’s worth. Taking the audience’s time in addition to taking their money is not a good deal.

  24. Happy to agree with the complimentary comments above, but, as someone who does see themself as dog person, I want to echo that Sugar is an awesome dog used very smartly in the dog-in-peril role.

    Mad Max and Mad Max 2 are just under and just over 90 minutes long, respectively, and I’ve never felt short changed by either of them. And Dog in Mad Max 2 is one of the great movie dogs.

  25. I’m surprised you guys all liked this one so much. I had a great time but I did see it in 4DX. It would have been just OK otherwise…

  26. HALLSY, I can imagine that would be kinda fun, but part of me thinks 4DX is just scratch’n’sniff dressed up for a younger generation than mine. And while I can only speak for myself, not everyone else loving this, I really think that what people responded to here was the no-frills, no-bullshit efficiency of the story telling. That’s definitely gonna work without water sprays and shaking seats and might actually be undermined them.

    But if you tell me that when she’s getting rolled by the gator while trying to pick up the flare the seat spun you over and over while gnawing your arm, I’ll reserve judgement.

  27. If CRAWL had come out in 2009, it would have been no big deal, because there were plenty of workmanlike horror-thrillers on the market back then. In 2019, however, a well produced, unpretentious monster movie like CRAWL that is content to simply deliver the goods and get the fuck out of its own way feels like a breath of fresh air.

  28. I was skeptical about 4DX but it is ridiculously fun if you catch the right movie. I saw HOBBES & SHAW and CRAWL and they were both an absolute blast. I highly recommend it. I will definitely be seeing the new STAR WARS in 4DX. And they have FROZEN 2 in 4DX this week so I am going to take my 7 year old to that one. She will lose her mind.

  29. I imagine a 4DX showing of HOBBES & SHAW would involve a constant mist of Axe Body Spray being squirted in your face.

  30. I unintentionally saw MIDWAY in 4DX (ticket prices in my city are so high that even seeing $20 on my bill didn’t alert me that I’d signed up for something I hadn’t expected) and it was kind of a hoot, but not something I feel especially inclined to do again. I’m impressed by the sophistication of the tech, but what with the air guns shooting off in my ears and the mist in my eyes and the chairs shaking around like the starship Enterprise getting shot up* I couldn’t make out some of the dialogue and couldn’t always appreciate the pretty pictures. I go to Emmerich movies because he knows to hold the camera still for his money shots; I never imagined it would be me that was shaking wildly around.

    * No smell-o-vision I could detect, alas

  31. I think they actually do have Smell-o-vision at times. The one I’ve been to has a preview commercial where they spray popcorn fumes at you…

  32. How was MIDWAY, Mr. S? All of Emmerich’s movie feel like stealth cornball WWII epics so I’m obviously interested in what he can do with the genuine article, but I wanted to wait for the opinion of an expert before committing to a theatrical screening.

  33. I actually have a nearby-ish theatre with 4DX.. It also has IMAX (I suspect LIEMAX though), that battery powered shutter glass 3D (aka the one 3D that actually works on my eyes) and the ability for HFR. I really need to check it all out at some point. My movie theatre experience doesn’t go above “digitally projected 3D movie with unpowered glasses”. Just waiting for the right movie. And time. And money. Still, I need to get my eyeballs fucked. And the rest of my body, since this seems to be what 4Dx is about.

  34. Mr. M — I liked it, and yes, his sensibilities are perfectly tuned to a cheesy, 100% earnest WWII epic, both in terms of its broad, honorably macho characters and its sweeping scope. And his ability to create ravishing, crystal clear images of destruction remains undimmed. Unfortunately the final aerial battle is edited like absolute dogshit, making it hard to follow what’s going on. The images are clear and often quite gorgeous, but they’re not presented in a way that lets you follow the beats of the battle very well. Weird, because the editing on the rest of it is fine. I feel like they must have run out of money or something and not had the coverage the editors needed. There’s also a sequence in the middle that stops the film cold and screams “AND NOW SOMETHING FOR THE CHINESE MARKET!” But mostly it’s exactly what you think it is, and that’s for the best.

    Anyway, if you are a person who would like an Emmerich movie called MIDWAY, I imagine you’ll like MIDWAY. I did. At the very least, it’s the kind of sweeping, spectacle-heavy filmmaking which makes the most of a theatrical experience.

  35. Just caught up with Crawl, aka the Barry Pepper Punishment Spectacular. Our boy had his shoulder slashed, leg broken, was drowned for about 2 minutes, thrown through a glass window, and had his fuckin ARM ripped off by a gator. And did he complain? Nope. This movie apparently believes that a good tourniquet will heal any and all wounds to the extremities–remember to carry an extra belt or two with you wherever you go!

    And I got a good laugh at Barry Pepper’s flashback sportsdad outfit, when he was cheering on his daughter at a swim meet while wearing flip flops, cargo shorts, and a sunglasses croakie.

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