Crawl: Dumb fun that is absolutely worth watching
There’s actually only one time an alligator crawls in Crawl, and it’s the first time we see it, booming through a basement staircase and making you jump in your seat. It’s at this moment that you realize the special effects are actually decent and that this movie is serious about scaring you and making sure you have a good time while being aware of its inherent silliness. After that, it’s swim like hell or get eaten by huge alligators that are all the exact same size.
The premise is simple, Haley (Kaya Scodelario) and her father (didn’t expect to watch Barry Pepper in a movie theater in 2019) get trapped in a flooding basement by very large alligators amidst a category 5 hurricane in Florida. Haley is a swimmer for the University of Florida and we know she has a strained relationship with her father due to a typical exposition dump. I’m not knocking it, especially since it is slightly better written than another B-movie of this nature, The Shallows; that was dumb fun too, but it’s exposition dump was eye-rolling and superfluous. That’s the thing about these movies, we just need to care about these contrived (I say contrived because a medical school dropout battling a shark and a competitive swimmer battling alligators? Put me in those situations and I’m shark/alligator bait. Again, no complaints, the characters have to be somewhat smart and physically believable to make a good survival thriller. Otherwise if the character is me then yeah, I’m eaten at the beginning and there’s no movie) characters enough to where we don’t want to see them eaten by a CGI shark or alligator. The Shallows worked because it was more than a dumb shark movie, it was ruthless nature vs. a strong, smart woman surrounded by the inanity of a dumb shark movie. We cared about her because, well, it was Blake Lively and nobody wants to see Blake Lively get eaten by a shark and because she was a strong character with a will to fight and survive. We learn more about her while she’s stuck on that rock, devising a way to get back to shore and talking to Steven the seagull than the Facetime calls to her father and sister.
Crawl works better because there’s less exposition and backstory waving its hands in front of your face telling you to care. It opens with Haley at swim practice, a few quick flashbacks to her childhood with her father, and then an expositional Facetime call to her sister in Boston and the rest is water, more water, and giant alligators. That’s it, that’s enough man, I am in. Bring me the gators, chomp chomp! And boy does it bring the gators, even baby gators! There’s swinging and thrashing, heads and limbs coming off, and total decimation of human bodies. There’s unbearable suspense, well-executed and unexpected jump-scares, and non-stop action. Also, SPOILER, but the dog survives and I’ve never been so thankful to see a film pooch make it to the final scene. It’s a gosh damn good gory time all in the span of a tight 1 hour and 27 minutes. That’s all you can ask for when you walk into a movie like this, and when it succeeds in giving you what you ask for then there’s absolutely no need to malign it. Go see Crawl and enjoy yourself as you sit on the edge of your seat. No subtlety needed.