CrawlReviewed By Peter Sobczynski
Posted 07/12/19 11:22:34
At the time that I am writing this, the Chicago area has been focused for the last few days on the Humboldt Park area where an alligator approximately five feet in length has turned up in a local lagoon. Although the creature, dubbed Chance the Snapper has largely been in hiding and there have only been a few glimpses to prove to that it is actually there, crowds have been flocking to the lagoon to stand out in the heat staring at nothing for hours on end in the hopes of getting a look at it. They may not actually get to see the thing for themselves but my guess is that they are almost certainly having more fun than anyone going out this weekend to plunk down money to go see the lousy alligator attack movie “Crawl.” At least at the lagoon, there is the slight possibility that something interesting or exciting might occur, which is not the case with this bargain basement (literally) rip-off that too often looks and feels like a SyFy Channel thriller with a slightly higher budget but even less point or purpose.Kaya Scodelario stars as Haley, a competitive college swimmer who finds herself being held back by personal performance issues. One day, after practice at her Florida college, she discovers that the state is in the path of a Category 5 hurricane and that no one has heard from her estranged father (Barry Pepper) in a while. She braves the storm to make it out to her dad’s house and finally finds him in the dirty but surprisingly expansive basement crawlspace. Just about the time she finds him, she discovers that they are not alone when a large alligator, swept in by the floodwaters, rears its ugly head. Haley manages to get them behind a series of pipes where the gator cannot get at them. Unfortunately for them, the storm outside only gets worse and as the water level in the basement rises, Haley is forced to venture beyond the pipes in the hopes of figuring out a way of saving them. By this time, however, there are now a number of gators lurking about, each one larger and hungrier than the last, that are ready to chomp her and her dad into bloody bits—that is, if the floodwaters and the hurricane don’t get them first.
Obviously, any film involving underwater creatures looking to snack on anyone who happens into their midst has to exist in the considerable shadow of Steven Spielberg’s classic “Jaws” (1975). One of the few attempts to actually succeed was “Alligator,” a 1980 schlock favorite that managed to transcend its knockoff origins thanks to a screenplay by John Sayles (who also co-wrote the equally effective “Piranha”) that employed clever and cheeky humor and engaging characters (played by such beloved B-movie stalwarts as Robert Forster and Henry Silva) that more than compensated for the tacky special effects and the relative lack of originality. By comparison, “Crawl” does have a potentially intriguing premise—take the standard aquatic horror template and set it within the confines of a place that would seem to be the ideal locale for a haunted house thriller—but it has no idea of what to do with it. Although the film clocks in at a pretty brief 87 minutes (including an end credits sequence scored, perhaps inevitably, to “See You Later, Alligator”), the screenplay by Michael and Shawn Rasmussen is an outrageously padded work that takes forever to get to its central conflict, repeatedly gets bogged down into father-daughter talks about swim meet strategies when you would think that they would have more important things to focus on and then just ends with startling abruptness. And while Haley does find herself nibbled on from time to time (though she manages to shrug off these wounds with no problem), she obviously has to survive at least until the final reel and with her dad and her dog being the only other non-gator individuals in the house, the film has to truck in people who show up for a few seconds and serve no other purpose than to bump up the body count.
“Crawl” was directed by Alexandre Aja, whose previous credits include “High Tension,” a French slasher movie that remains one of the worst films that I have ever seen in my life, a repellent remake of the Wes Craven gross-out “The Hills Have Eyes” and, oddly enough, the 2009 remake of the aforementioned “Piranha.” That last title is perhaps the only film of his that I can even vaguely tolerate, possibly because it simply wasn’t as bad as I had feared it would be and because it demonstrated a slight sense of fun amidst the over-the-top carnage that was reminiscent of what made the original one of the best “Jaws” copycats of them all. With “Crawl,” he jumps into the drink once again but demonstrates none of what made that earlier effort sort of work. Although it is slickly made on a technical level, the whole thing just becomes rather rote and monotonous after a while and the few moments that comes closest to matching the dictionary definition of “inspiration”—including one in which Haley outwits a gator while trapped in the shower of a rapidly flooding bathroom—have been featured so often in the ads that they lose whatever effectiveness that they might have once had. As for those who are going in the hopes of seeing Aja top the gory extremes of his previous efforts, they will be extremely disappoint because while there is enough bloodletting to earn its “R” rating, none of the attacks are especially memorable in this regard.Although I have nothing but contempt for Aja as a filmmakers, I must confess that I was actually looking forward to seeing “Crawl”—I am always down for a movie in which unwary swimmers are chomped to bits on some basic fundamental level and the conceit suggested that it might give the format a nifty spin in the way that the genuinely impressive “The Shallows” did a couple years ago. Of course, to try to take a film like this seriously on any level is perhaps foolish—it is essentially the modern equivalent of the kind of low-budget trash that might have turned up on the bottom half of a drive-in double feature—but even on that greatly reduced level, it still comes up short. This film, as it turns out, is not so much “The Shallows” as it is incredibly shallow and on the list of great gator-based horror movies, it ranks slightly behind “Happy Gilmore” in terms of sheer terror. “Crawl” may be teeming with alligators but when all is said and done, the whole thing is essentially a crock.
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