Ever since Jaws conjured a palpable sense of dread towards shark-infested oceans, creature features have been a prominent fixture of the summer movie schedule. Films like The Shallows and The Meg have continued this trend with mostly positive results, paving the way for the latest R-rated genre film Crawl. Shamelessly playing up to the formula of the genre, the film offers a fun, yet familiar entry in the creature pantheon.
Crawl follows Hayley, a college student trying to rescue her father amidst an incoming hurricane. She gets more than she bargains for, however, as deadly alligators only enhance the disastrous situation. Delivering on the B-movie promise of its outrageous premise, Crawl is an effective low-stakes thriller that acts as a much-needed pallet cleanser following several bombastic blockbusters.
Much of the credit for Crawl’s success goes to genre director Alexandre Aja. The craftsman has been one of the most overlooked voices in the genre, pushing the envelope with distinct horror entries like The Hills Have Eyes. He continues to be a genre craftsman here, creating innovative gory sequences of horror that both shock and excite audiences. Ratching the tension throughout while keeping an effectively breathless pace across its 87 minute run time, Aja keeps things interesting even when the material isn’t as capable.
Horror films are typically known for their middling performances, yet this film’s small cast exceeds expectations. Kaya Scodelario is a capable lead as Hayley, creating a believable character that audiences can empathize with. Barry Pepper has enjoyed a sturdy career as a character actor, providing a reliable presence here as Hayley’s protective dad. Crawl’s story attempts the bare minimum, allowing the scares to take center stage.
At the same token, the film suffers because of its limited scope. Crawl doesn’t provide anything you haven’t seen in a monster film before, and without establishing memorable characters or moments I can’t say it will be a movie that will stick with me long after viewing. The Rasmussen Brothers screenplay shows promise with its unique set-up but lacks the same creativity when it comes to presenting these characters. Limitations aside, Crawl offers a satisfying experience for genre fans looking for their gore fix.