Apex Predator All Day

Main Cast: Kaya Scodelario, Barry Pepper

Director: Alexandre Aja

You ever have a movie you want to watch, you know you want to watch it, you’ve had several opportunities to watch, but you just keep putting it off?

I’ve wanted to watch 2019’s CRAWL since, well, 2019.  It’s been on my Paramount+ watch list since I subscribed to the service.  I’ve looked at it countless times since then and thought, “I’d like to watch that.  Someday.”

Well, someday finally came and I have to say, I’m glad I watched it.

CRAWL is written by Michael and Shawn Rasmussen (John Carpenter’s THE WARD) and directed by Alexandre Aja (THE HILLS HAVE EYES), so it’s got horror cred from the beginning, with Sam Raimi listed as one of the producers, which I remember was the big draw in the commercials, FROM THE PRODUCER OF EVIL DEAD.  But when you watch the trailer, it’s a story about a woman and her dad trapped under their house by a giant alligator during a hurricane.

I mean, it sounds simple enough.  And that’s probably why it took me so long to watch it, because the trailer spells it all out and from start to finish, it all sounds super simple, and usually that means not all that scary and quite possibly forgettable.

Right on both counts.  CRAWL wasn’t all that scary, and I give it six months before I forget almost every plot point.

But I still enjoyed it immensely while watching it.

The story is, like I said, simple as all hell.  Haley (Kaya Scodelario, THE MAZE RUNNER) has been trained as a swimmer by her dad (Barry Pepper, THE GREEN MILE, and also THE MAZE RUNNER) since she was little.  Cut to present day as she loses her latest race (an important character building moment later when she has to race a swarm of gators) before getting a call from her sister (Morfydd Clark, SAINT MAUD).  Has Haley heard from their dad?  There’s a category 5 hurricane coming through his neighborhood and he’s not answering the phone.

Haven’t heard from him, Haley says; they’ve been fighting.  But she’s only two hours away, she’ll drive down and check on him.

When she gets to his new condo she finds the dog, Sugar, is there, but no dad.  Maybe she’ll swing by the old house and check.  She’s stopped along the way by police who say it’s too dangerous, she’ll have to turn back.  Haley feigns obedience, then turns around at the last second and takes a back road, eventually arriving to find her dad’s truck parked outside.

She goes inside but doesn’t see him anywhere.  Sugar, who has come along, leads Haley to the cellar stairs where she hears music.  Dad’s under the house, working in the crawlspace (hence the movie’s title), listening to the radio.

Haley goes in after him and eventually finds him injured and passed out.  She rolls him onto a tarp and starts dragging him along the ground to get him out and to a hospital and that’s when she realizes there’s a giant friggin alligator under here with her!

She changes direction and drags dad further under the house—which is starting to flood thanks to the hurricane—behind some pipes the gator is too big to fit past, and there she wakes him up and they try to figure out how to get out of here.

Seems simple enough.  But you throw in a second gator and fast-rising flood waters, and you’ve got a race against both time and the elements.

As I said, I really enjoyed CRAWL.  Also, I won’t remember it in six months.  But with everything still fresh in my mind, there was a lot to like here.  Both Scodelario and Pepper gave fine performances, and the Rasmussen brothers’ script played on a lot of tropes of this type of movie without falling into the trap of making everything fall so easily into place.

In a locked room scenario like this, it’s common practice to pepper the means of escape throughout the setting so, in the end, the characters have assembled, scavenger hunt-like, the method by which they’re going to defeat the villain, and in the gathering of materials, have filled the run time of the story.  But this time, it seems every time Haley gains an advantage, it’s immediately disposed of, leaving Haley and her father right back where they started. I admired the persistence of the script here to keep giving them a glimmer of hope and then taking it away again, making their plight—with the still-rising waters under the house—all the more desperate.

Throw in the family drama and the father/daughter relationship stuff and you’ve got a movie that’s speaking my language.

With intense movies like HIGH TENSION and THE HILLS HAVE EYES, along with emotional stuff like Joe Hill’s HORNS, under his belt, Aja seems the perfect director for a movie like this.  He’s got the action chops to make those tense scenes work, and also knows how to manipulate a heart-to-heart moment to good effect.  And having also directed PIRANHA 3D, he knows his way around a creature feature.  It’s like this movie was meant to be.

With all this good going for it, why won’t I remember CRAWL in six months?  Because despite how well-made it was, how intense some of the scenes got, or how well it was acted, there was no DEEP BLUE SEA moment.

You know the one.  You’ve seen DEEP BLUE SEA, but chances are you only know you’ve seen it because you remember one death scene.  Totally forgettable movie, one very memorable scene.  CRAWL tries for one of those moments, but it’s telegraphed, and the execution isn’t near as memorable.  And that’s the problem with CRAWL.  It’s pretty to look at, and there’s lots of ridiculous stuff that happens, but for the most part it all stays just on this side of “plausible under the right circumstances” before moving onto the next thing.  There’s a short scene with one of the gators in the shower, but even that one wasn’t strong enough to be the reason I remember anything about this movie.

And maybe that’s alright.  I didn’t get the sense that Aja and company were out to make the next big thing in horror cinema.  CRAWL has popcorn movie written all over it and I really do wish I’d bothered to see this one in the theater inside of writing it off as “probably just as good at home on TV.”

I’m good with recommending CRAWL.  It’s fun, it’s easy to look at, and from the moment it kicks into gear, it never lets up.  I was disappointed there wasn’t the denouement I was hoping for, but I’ll just imagine it happened and that’ll be good enough.  This one’s an easy 4 stars.

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