Crawl (2019)

*. By the time I got around to watching this one I’d forgotten that it had been directed by Alexandre Aja. Finding out made me smile. I didn’t think that much of The Other Side of the Door but I liked High Tension (Switchblade Romance) and the remake of The Hills Have Eyes. I think Aja is a director who knows his stuff, at least if you define his stuff as being pulp horror.
*. That’s a good thing because Crawl doesn’t have much else going for it. To make the obvious comparison, this is Sharknado with alligators. It’s not as absurd, but it’s basically the same premise. A hurricane hits Florida and the ‘gators come with it, besieging a girl and her dad in the basement of their house. They do the usual family-bonding-in-a-crisis thing (which played a big part in Sharknado too). There are a couple of failed rescues, but in the end they manage to outsmart and outfight the monsters, proving themselves to be the true apex predators.
*. Production values are better than for Sharknado, which means the CGI alligators look better than the CGI sharks in that movie. Though like all such movies from Jaws onward the creatures are much, much larger than they would be in real life. This made me wonder if maybe normal-size alligators might have actually been scarier. Perhaps. But giant alligators are an easier sell.
*. It’s a well executed B-picture. There are a few suspenseful scenes, one good jump scare, and a plot that takes the characters out of one jam straight into another, mercifully sparing us too much of the dreadful father-daughter bonding stuff. Kaya Scodelario is adequate as the gritty and resourceful hero. Being stuck in a basement for so long is no fun, but I think Aja makes good use of the space. Even the improbabilities aren’t too much of a stretch. No, Haley couldn’t really outswim an alligator, but she has a head start. Of course a lot of the story is ridiculous, but not so ridiculous that you give up on it.
*. The thing about a movie like this is you can only compare it to its peers, and these are dismal. If not Sharknado then perhaps the 47 Meters Down movies. I think Crawl is a better movie than anything else I can fairly compare it to, but it is still almost entirely without substance or originality. I suspect those are qualities that its intended audience won’t be looking for though.

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