Aug 14, 2019
Welcome back for another Certified Fresh review, for the best alligator movie that I’ve ever seen. Granted, I haven’t seen that many films involving alligators, but I don’t think that gets in the way of how great this film is. Don’t believe me? I’ll explain why in a bit, but for a few other great horror films from this year, check out “Midsommar” (Episode #527), “The Hole in the Ground” (Episode #491), and “Us” (Episode #449).
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Today’s movie is “Crawl”, the Paramount Pictures and Raimi Productions horror movie directed by Alexandre Aja and written for the screen by Michael and Shawn Rasmussen. The film follows college swimming star Haley (Kaya Scodelario), who checks in on her father Dave (Barry Pepper) at their old home during the onset of a category five hurricane. When Haley investigates the crawlspace below their home to find her father, she gets a whole lot more than she bargained for.
Film can be used to tell any story. Concepts become premises. Premises become scripts. Scripts get storyboarded. Directors and actors capture the story. Editors transform the output into the finished product. At each step of the way, more gets added to the initial idea, and at the end of the process, something greater than the sum of its parts gets produced. Ideally speaking. Usually you can spot the weak link in that chain of events when films go wrong, or what part was compromised for the sake of the business. When it comes to animal horror/survival pictures, most are produced by low-budget mockbuster purveyors, and quite frankly, neither the premise nor the script for “Crawl” would suggest making a $13.5 million investment. No one but Raimi Productions, who are now receiving both critical praise and box office returns on what’s probably the best alligator film I’ve ever seen.
So, if the premise and the script don’t have much promise, how does a film like “Crawl” get made? A winning combination of solid direction, great pacing, and a solid cast. If anyone was going to make this film work, it was Alexandre Aja, whose last well received film was 2010’s “Piranha 3-D”, which made a splash similar to today’s film at the time. Aja knows how to film water because of that film, and makes excellent use of our natural fascination with running and falling water within the dank crawl space, adding texture with light and shadow, and making the entire process visually appealing. The film takes just the right amount of time at the beginning to establish characters and setting before engaging in a remarkably well-paced and tight horror thriller. Each challenge and setback feels genuine, and Aja trims nearly all the fat from the film’s final ninety minute run-time.
The other major strength of this film is the cast. Kaya Scodelario and Barry Pepper make a great father/daughter pairing, whose skill and chemistry also add much more to the sometimes overwrought dialogue in the script. None of the scenes had to be a lot of fun to film, but they made the absolute best out of every scene. Haley’s character rapidly develops and hardens throughout the story, making her fights against both the elements and the animals feel more realistic than they probably should. I was cheering as hard for Haley to survive as I was for the healthy dose of alligator attacks on the supporting cast members, giving us both sides of the horror survival kick.
“Crawl” is a fun, well-paced, and visually appealing thrill ride. Between Aja’s direction and a solid cast, the film transcends its B-movie premise and average script to create something much greater and more entertaining. Horror, thriller, survivalist, and alligator fans should definitely check out this film. And then never, ever go into a Florida home’s crawl space again.
Rotten Tomatoes: 83% (CERTIFIED FRESH)
One Movie Punch: 7.6/10
“Crawl” (2019) is rated R and is currently playing in theaters.