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Thursday, July 18, 2019 12:04 am

Crawl a B-movie delight

 

After having seen the trailer for Alejandro Aja’s Crawl, I realized this was the movie I had been for waiting all summer.  I never thought I would suffer from superhero film fatigue, but that certainly has set in. With all of the lackluster sequels and reboots I’ve been subjected to, this summer movie season has been one to endure, not enjoy. So maybe it’s not really a surprise that a good old-fashioned, B-movie monster flick would seem to be the anecdote for the roster of familiar, uninspired fare I’ve had to watch.

That Crawl was not screened for critics was obviously a bad sign.  Still, I held out hope that it would be passable entertainment and what with an 87-minute screening time, it already had me halfway toward giving it a good review. With a sufficiently large tub of popcorn in hand (this is a popcorn movie if there ever was one) I settled in to see if director Alexandre Aja could deliver the proper number of effective alligator-munching-on-people moments.

Fifteen minutes in, it became obvious that a good time would be had, as Aja’s intent isn’t so much to frighten as it is to see just how long he could ride the film’s premise before the wheels come off. Surprisingly, it’s much farther than you’d expect.

The plot is simplicity itself – a category 5 hurricane is raging over Central Florida and University of Florida swimmer Haley (Kaya Scodelario) is driving straight into the storm to check on her father (Barry Pepper), who isn’t answering his phone. She finds why out soon enough when she discovers him injured in the cellar of the family home, having suffered a large bite from an alligator. As the rains continue to fall and the waters rise, father and daughter realize there’s more than one hungry predator on the prowl and their options for escape are becoming increasingly limited.

While this has all of the earmarks of being a check-your-brain-at-the-door movie, the script by Michael and Shawn Rasmussen is far more plausible and logical than you’d expect.  To be sure, you have to accept the notion that Haley is able to outswim a gator or two and these beasts certainly don’t seem as lethal as your standard movie shark. The wounds inflicted on father and daughter aren’t nearly as fatal as you’d expect.
That being said, with most of the film taking place in the confined space of the house’s basement, Aja executes one effective jump scare after another, the gators appearing just around a corner or upon a pile of refuse in the dark, the filmmaker’s camera at water level to accentuate the terror.  A particular scene involving Haley going toe-to-toe with two of the hungry reptiles is particularly inspired as is a moment when she finds herself cornered in a bathroom, a set of snapping jaws far too close for comfort. 

Dimwitted looters and a couple of unfortunate police officers provide ample fodder for the ravenous monsters, their respective deaths handled in such a way as to elicit the sort of thrills that have the viewers giggling in anticipation, watching through their fingers, eager to see the carnage that’s never too graphic.  This may seem like a rather gruesome endorsement, yet the intent of the film is to deliver fun scares, not those of the traumatizing variety.  That Bill Haley’s “See You Later, Alligator” plays over the end credits tells you all you need you know about Crawl’s intent and how it should be taken.   

Contact Chuck Koplinski at ckoplinski@usd116.org.

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