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In Theaters: CRAWL (2019)

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CRAWL 
(US - 2019)

Directed by Alexandre Aja. Written by Michael Rasmussen and Shawn Rasmussen. Cast: Kaya Scodelario, Barry Pepper, Morfydd Clark, Ross Anderson, Anson Boon, Ami Metcalf, Jose Palma, George Somner. (R, 87 mins)

Or, GATORS IN A CRAWLSPACE, but that might be a little too SNAKES ON A PLANE-y. Mostly stupidly enjoyable if you shut your brain off completely, CRAWL is a disaster movie/nature run amok mash-up from director Alexandre Aja, one of the key figures in France's "extreme horror" movement from a decade and a half ago. After HIGH TENSION hit the US in 2005, Aja was courted by Hollywood and made the better-than-expected remake of THE HILLS HAVE EYES, but beyond that, his output has ranged from "Meh" with MIRRORS and HORNS to "Are you for real with this shit?" with his inexplicably fanboy-approved remake of PIRANHA, the horror equivalent of a Friedberg/Seltzer spoof movie. After somewhat of a departure with 2016's little-seen THE 9TH LIFE OF LOUIS DRAX, Aja returns to horror with the Sam Raimi-produced CRAWL, working from a script by Michael and Shawn Rasmussen, the sibling team that penned 2011's THE WARD, John Carpenter's last film to date and among his least essential.






College student Haley Keller (Kaya Scodelario of the MAZE RUNNER franchise) is on the University of Florida swim team (yes, the Florida Gators). She gets a frantic phone call from her Boston-based older sister Beth (Morfydd Clark), who can't get a hold of their father Dave (Barry Pepper), who's a couple hours south of Gainesville with a Category 5 hurricane bearing down on the state. Estranged from Dave after her parents' recent divorce, Haley makes the drive through treacherous storm and ignores a road block in an area where people are being forced to evacuate. She ends up at the family home but Dave is nowhere to be found until his barking mutt Sugar alerts Haley to his whereabouts: a quickly-flooding crawlspace under the house where he's bloodied and unconscious with a snapped leg. He comes to, tells her he was down there trying to cover the vents before the storm hit but had a run-in with an unexpected guest: a large alligator that's decided to call the crawlspace home and soon makes its presence known to Haley. She and Dave are able to hide behind a de facto fort of pipes that have been arranged in a way to maximize plot convenience, but before long, a second gator appears. And there's some hatched eggs, as it seems the Keller home, escrowed in the recent divorce, has an unexpected family of squatters brought in by the hurricane. Then some of their relatives start showing up.


CRAWL is a situation begging for Robert Forster but, like Cecile de France in HIGH TENSION, Scodelario displays a good amount of grit and toughness. This is the kind of film where a father and daughter decide to work out their issues as they're under siege by ferocious alligators. It's the kind of movie where Dave says "Be quiet!" only they both continue their loud conversation as Haley wades through the water to retrieve her phone. It's the kind of movie where Haley again tries to silently wade through the rising flood water but her foot hits a submerged cage, prompting an alligator reaction shot. It's the kind of post-QUIET PLACE horror movie that thinks alligators are blind and if you stand perfectly still, they won't know you're there. It's the kind of movie where Dave's leg is snapped and Haley's leg and arm have been chomped on, but they somehow manage to continue wading and swimming, walking it off like Werner Herzog being grazed by an insignificant bullet. CRAWL also amuses in that it's one of these movies shot in Eastern Europe--Belgrade, in this case--and Dave's house is in a cul-de-sac with a strangely-placed gas station right in the center of it, clearly the kind of "average Florida neighborhood" that could only exist in the imagination of an outsourced Serbian production design team. But there's really no use being snarky and nit-picky--CRAWL is what it is. The CGI gators look better then expected, there's a couple of good jump scares, and Scodelario (also terrific in the recent EXTREMELY WICKED, SHOCKINGLY EVIL AND VILE) is a solid heroine you can get behind. Still...this really feels like a Netflix Original that's accidentally been released in theaters.


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