Alexandre Aja’s Crawl is a moderately fun, fast-paced creature feature that keeps the action constant through its short runtime, but doesn’t really do much to stand out among other flicks within the sub-genre.
The film follows college athlete Haley Keller (Kaya Scodelario) and her father Dave (Barry Pepper) as they struggle to avoid death by alligator during a hurricane that’s slowly flooding their house. The “trapped with a hungry animal and ticking clock” shtick has been done more than a few times before (and Crawl certainly isn’t one of the best), but Scoldelario and Pepper’s performances, which make you care about their characters using as little time as possible, and solid visual effects keep it just intense and interesting enough.
I’d say that the most impressive part about Crawl was it’s pacing, as it wastes no time getting to the good stuff. The reptilian menace makes its grand entrance (via a fantastic jump scare) within the first twenty minutes or so, and then never gives you a chance to relax. Most movies like this devote a good chunk of their screen time to try and make you care about secondary characters who’ll inevitably end up as chow for whatever is stalking them, but not Crawl. Aja puts the focus on his two leads, the carnivorous creature, creating tension, and nothing else.
It’s also worth noting that Crawl mostly avoids one of the biggest, most frustrating cliches of horror films. Haley and Dave both make intelligent decisions, or at least the best ones possible considering the situations they find themselves in, for the majority of the movie. It’s always nice to see characters in a horror flick be cautious and crafty instead of doing something stupid to ensure the story continues (this time, extremely bad luck keeps prolonging the tale). There’s one poor decision that’s made by one of the main duo near the end, and the few extra people who show up definitely made some dumb calls, but most of the time I agreed with the choices made by the survivors.
Unfortunately, Crawl’s pacing and intelligent protagonists can only do so much with the paint by numbers narrative. The scares were solid, but being able to predict where the movie was going at all times cheapened the whole experience for me.
With all said and done, Crawl is an entertaining 80 minutes, but not something you should rush out to see. It’s a fairly enjoyable watch, yet isn’t anything new or special.