It seems like The Meg has started a new trend of creature-feature movies that give a nod to horror fans by offering the appealing idea of carnivorous ‘monsters’ going on a murderous rampage.
This year horror summer blockbuster is Crawl, produced by Sam Raimi and directed by Alexandre Aja (High Tension, The Hills Have Eyes remake), which is thankfully rated R for blood and violence. I mentioned Crawl in my most anticipated horror movies of 2019 article back in January, when it wasn’t clear yet what direction the script would have taken.
Fast forward 7 months later, it’s now clear that Alexandre Aja’s Crawl is basically a stupidly high-budgeted B-horror movie (nothing wrong with that, Piranha 3D by Aja is, after all, just that and it’s a lot of fun!). The very simplistic story follows Haley (Kaya Scodelario), who struggles to save her father (Barry Pepper) from a Category-5 hurricane that struck Florida: however, she gets trapped in a flooding house that becomes infested with voracious alligators.
This movie had its first press screening in the country where I live well over two weeks after the worldwide release, so I’m well aware both critics and fans are praising it quite a bit. And I can tell there are quite a few qualities to this picture.
Continue reading and check my final grade below…
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My review is also available on IMDb – Crawl (2019)
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First and foremost, most of the moviegoers who bought a ticket for Crawl just want to have a fun time, which the movie starts to deliver pretty early on, as the action starts 20 minutes into the relatively short runtime. Nearly every sequence involving an alligator is, indeed, rather entertaining: the FX team did a very good job at crafting CGI reptiles that are both photo-realistic and mildly exaggerated for dramatic purposes. Speaking of computer-generated images, the hurricane itself is extremely well-done, considering the relatively low $13,500,000 estimated budget: Hollywood made much more expensive movies that looked way worse than Crawl.
The house setting is, also, rather impactful as it allows the viewer for self-immersion into the story. It gives you that “what would I do in a situation like that?” kind of feeling, so to speak. To achieve that, the camera-work plays a big role with the seamless movements it creates. Aja also understands how to diversify the angles which the audience experiences these sequences from and, by doing that, it makes the overall picture more exciting and livelier.
Much to my surprise, Kaya Scodelario as the lead character does a very solid job with the material she had to work with. Despite the very basic and superficial character development she’s given, the audience can relate to her struggle in such an extreme situation.
The same can’t be said for her father, whose character is basically non-existent and who’s played in a rather wooden way by Barry Pepper. The dialogue in Crawl is, at points, truly cringeworthy, which causes every exchange in the film to feel stilted and unnatural. This leads to another complain with the film: the first 20 minutes are really hard to sit through, since nothing relevant happens aside from some exposition dumb the audience is believed to need.
Compared to most horror films directed by Aja, Crawl is rather tame and the gore feels way more watered down than it should’ve been given the context. Unfortunately, this movie really feels like a studio horror flick that isn’t free to fully go there. Every time the alligators (which, I should reiterate, look really cool) attack someone, the scene feels either devoid of any real consequence or pointless since the victim is never someone the audience would really care about.
Although Crawl had every excuse to avoid the Hollywood supernatural story clichés, the movie still relies on tropes such as jump-scares (some decently timed, some poorly executed) and, mostly, idiotic character choices that make you care even less about their faith. The score is, again, very cliched and made only of overused sound effects.
Yet, the ending seems rather rushed and devoid of any realistic procedure that would occur during a strong hurricane. Unfortunately, it only makes the overall film more pointless and forgettable.
As I said, the majority of horror fans and movie critics seem to dig Crawl, so don’t let this review stop you from checking the movie out. I do think parts of it are rather entertaining, the movie has a few quality elements to it. However, there are also tons of flaws (check out this review to read about some logical inconsistencies when it comes to the alligators) and too little self-awareness to consider Crawl a good film. Its place is on prime-time on the sci-fi channel.
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