Parisian Alexandre Aja is one of the more dependable horror directors out there, bursting out of with the exemplary Haute Tension and the surprisingly adroit remake of The Hills Have Eyes.
When it comes to creating tension, he definitely didn’t have to “Crawl” before he could walk.
This one’s a surprisingly character-driven effort however, absent the doctrinal “don’t mess with nature” environmental messaging so common among animal attack flicks, the furtive laboratory, the nuclear waste disposal site, the unheeded warnings from scientists, etc.
A swimmer from the University of Florida (yes, they’re nicknamed “the Gators”), Haley (Kaya Scodelario), gets a call that there’s a category 5 ‘cane coming to lay waste to Florida. She goes to check on the status of her pops, who was also her swim teacher, skirting law enforcement checkpoints to do so.
At the Coral Lake adode, dad is stuck in the um…”crawlspace” and under water and under siege: voracious gators have gotten in via the storm drain, a neat nod to the gators in the sewer urban legend, although very realistic as The Sunshine State is really gator country.
From there, the flooding pummels the homestead and wicked winds whip up, all created on a Serbian sound stage of all places, it should be said, very convincingly.
There’s some pretty good tension and the familial dynamic is nicely played up, as the dad was a bit heavy-handed pushing the fruit of his loins into sports and she’s more than a bit resentful, especially after a relay loss in the opening frame. But of course her swimming abilities will eventually serve her well.
And with Crawl, it’s pretty innovative to have animal scares confined primarily to a home versus being out in the wilderness, where this kind of thing would typically be set, the likes of Rogue, for example, or even a scaly creature wreaking havoc in a city (Alligator).
*** (out of 5)