Crawl movie review Kaya Scodelario Barry Pepper

Year: 2019
Director(s): Alexandre Aja
Writer(s): Michael Rasmussen, Shawn Rasmussen
Region of Origin: US
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
Rating: R
Color, 87 mins

Synopsis: A woman and her father find themselves trapped in a flooding house alligators. (Source)

By all accounts, Crawl is the type of film that shouldn’t work. Against all odds, it works wonderfully. Directed by Alexandre Aja, the film is a go-for-broke, no frills example of minimalist structure and maximalist, primal thrills. Aja takes a threadbare premise and has fun with it every step of the way. Thanks to a concise script from Michael and Shawn Rasmussen, the story has just enough emotion to make us invested, and Aja makes sure to wring every last bit of blood from it. Frankly, films like this are far and few in between. It knows exactly what it wants to do, and hones in with razor sharp accuracy and gory glee. 

The setup is perfect. Haley (Kaya Scodelario) is a competitive swimmer who’s just one loss away from losing her scholarship. Literally on the edge of a storm, she responds to a call from her frantic sister. Her sister hasn’t been able to contact their estranged dad, and his neighborhood is right in the path of an oncoming hurricane. Naturally, Haley treks to their old family home. There, she discovers her injured father, left for dead in the wake of gator attack. Before she can get him to safety, the pair are surrounded by gators in his home’s basement. Making matters worse, the water level is rising by the minute. In the middle of the storm, with no help in sight, the two of them have nothing but their wits to survive the night. 

The beauty of the film is its simplicity. The narrative is economical but with a hook so effortless, we can’t help but bite. This is the creature feature we wished Hollywood would make more of. It contrasts the primal thirst of its predators with characters who are each struggling with their own shortcomings. Trapped in a single setting, Aja keeps leveling up with each scene. Things get progressively tense as the film balances cheeky gore with a savage, primal fight for survival. As you can imagine, everything that can go wrong, does. Still, Aja’s talent for maintaining tension and letting it explode amounts to a film that feels light on its feet, but full of rising BPMs. 

Crawl movie Kaya Scodelario

Aside from a handful of one-lined supporting actors, Kaya Scodelario and Barry Pepper carry the entire film, along with the film’s impressive VFX, which are as breathtaking as they are terrifying. Scodelario headlines the film as its emotional center. She’s a character that we have no problem investing in, someone who has lost her way but fighting for a second chance in more ways than one. Barry Pepper sells the film’s inherent silliness with a straight face, helping to nail most of its nail-biting moments. The other stars here, are of course the film’s sharp-toothed gators. There seems to be a clever mix of both practical creatures and CGI trickery, giving the film a menacing tactility that is felt with each bite.

Let’s be honest here, Crawl isn’t exactly a film that we’re going to have an easy time remembering, but it also scratches a very specific itch. It’s nasty when it wants to be, doesn’t waste any time, and doesn’t let us down. Aja has created something that’s stylish and endlessly gripping. With its low investment and brevity, it’s hard to be mad at something this fun and skillfully crafted. If you’re looking for a good time, let this storm of reptilian madness swallow you whole.