Directed by: Alexandre Aja
Starring: Kaya Scodelario, Barry Pepper
Genre: Action, Horror, Drama, Thriller
Release Date: 23 August 2019
Running Time: 87 Minutes
Budget: $13.5 million
Crawl is a 2019 American disaster horror film directed by Alexandre Aja and written by Michael and Shawn Rasmussen. It stars Kaya Scodelario and Barry Pepper as a daughter and father, who along with their dog are hunted by alligators after becoming trapped in their home during a Category 5 hurricane.
The film was announced in May 2018, with Sam Raimi producing through his Ghost House Pictures banner, and Aja attached as director. Scodelario and Pepper joined the cast in July 2018, with other actors being added later that summer. Principal photography began in August 2018 and wrapped in September 2018.
The film was theatrically released in the United States on July 12, 2019, by Paramount Pictures. It has grossed $71.3 million worldwide and received generally positive reviews, with critics praising the performances (particularly Scodelario) and called it “satisfying and a lot of fun.”
Crawl Movie: Plot
Aspiring University of Florida swimmer Haley Keller receives a call from her sister Beth who informs her that a Category 5 hurricane is on a collision course with Florida and advises her to get out of the state. Haley is concerned for the safety of her father Dave, as he is not answering his phone. Against the instructions of Florida State Police, Haley navigates around evacuation routes to check in on Dave. She first goes to his condo, where he has been living since he and her mother divorced. Haley finds the family dog Sugar at the condo but not Dave himself and is worried that he has returned to the family home in Coral Lake, which he supposedly sold years ago.
Haley and Sugar navigate the flooded streets and find Dave’s truck at the Coral Lake house. There, she descends into the crawl space underneath the house while leaving Sugar upstairs, and eventually finds her father unconscious and wounded. When she tries to drag him out, her exit is cut off by large and ravenous alligators that Dave believes got into the house via a storm drain open to the crawl space. The alligators are too large to fit around the pipes under the house, allowing Haley and Dave a safe area at the far end of the crawl space. However, the hurricane intensifies and the crawl space begins to flood, so Haley attempts to navigate around the alligators before she and her father drown.
While attempting to escape the crawl space and fending off the alligators, Haley drops her phone (which gets crushed by an alligator) and discovers that the secondary exit to the crawl space is blocked by a box on top of the hatch. She tries to contact a group of looters in a gas station opposite the house for help, but they get killed by alligators. She is also helpless to stop the alligators from attacking and killing two police officers who investigate the house for survivors. Dave manages to kill an alligator by splitting its head open with a shovel, but gets trapped. In a last ditch effort to escape, Haley makes her way to the storm drain, where she discovers that the alligators have made their nest and laid eggs. Haley successfully kills the other alligator using a gun retrieved from the body of one of the police officers, shooting down the alligator’s throat when it nearly bites her hand off, and makes it upstairs, crow-barring the living room floor open and saving Dave from drowning in the basement.
Free of the crawl space, Haley, Dave and Sugar procure the looters’ boat just as the eye of the hurricane moves over the neighborhood. However, the flood waters break the nearby levees, flooding Coral Lake even more and crashing them back into the house, where they get separated. While Dave and Sugar make their way up the stairs, Haley navigates around the kitchen and uses a discarded police radio to broadcast a distress signal to authorities.
After retrieving a set of road flares and saving Sugar from being attacked, Dave loses an arm to one of the alligators. Haley attempts to flag down a rescue helicopter from an upstairs bedroom but is attacked by another alligator, which attempts to drown her in a death roll. While Dave and Sugar escape to the attic, Haley stabs the alligator in the eye with a flare, and attempts to swim to the roof from the outside of the house, narrowly avoiding being mauled by a fourth alligator before it gets swept away. Haley lights a flare and flags down the rescue helicopter as Dave and Sugar watch.
Crawl Movie: Production
On May 1, 2018, Paramount Pictures and Ghost House Pictures announced Alexandre Aja would direct the film with Kaya Scodelario starring. Principal photography began in August 2018 in Belgrade, Serbia, and wrapped up the following month. The visual effects were provided by Rodeo FX and supervised by Thomas Montminy Brodeur and Keith Kolder.
Originally slated for a United States release on August 23, 2019, the film was later moved up to July 12, 2019.
On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 82% based on 147 reviews, with an average rating of 6.55/10. The website’s critical consensus reads, “An action-packed creature feature that’s fast, terrifying, and benefits greatly from a completely game Kaya Scodelario, Crawl is a fun throw-back with just enough self-awareness to work.” On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 60 out of 100, based on 28 critics, indicating “mixed or average reviews.” Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of “B” on an A+ to F scale, while those at PostTrak gave it an average 2.5 out of 5 stars and a 46% “definite recommend.”
Angelica Jade Bastien of New York Magazine praised the film, saying, “Crawl is a great example of a simple story exceedingly well-told. It’s a bloody adventure full of teeth-gnawing turns of fortune, mordant wit, vicious gator kills, and surprising tenderness — that clocks in at a blessedly fleet 87 minutes. It’s a perfect horror film for the summer, as much an ode to the cataclysmic, humbling aspects of Mother Nature as it is a love letter to father-daughter relationships.” Jim Vejvoda of IGN wrote, “Crawl is a fun albeit familiar human vs. beast movie, one that gets plenty of mileage out of its setting and people’s deep-set fear of being eaten.” He cautioned that fans of Alexandre Aja might be surprised at how mainstream Crawl is compared to his more gruesome horror films.
Crawl Movie Trailer:
Crawl Movie Review:
A few weeks ago, videos of a couple of Gujarati crocodiles preying on the innocent went viral on social media. Non politically, of course. This is basically the central premise of the allegorical alligator movie, Crawl, which after sneakily succeeding at the US box office has swum its way to our shores.
Disappointingly, though, it isn’t set in Vadodara, but in Florida – a state that is equally well-known for its natural calamities as it is for news headlines about its man-made ones.
The film’s lean and mean plot could easily inspire one of those popular ‘Florida Man’ headlines, because like most good horror pictures, it begins with an act of blinding stupidity.
Dave Keller, a contractor and overbearing father played by Barry Pepper, decides to board up his home during a Category 5 hurricane, and promptly gets trapped in the underground crawlspace. When his young daughter (Kaya Scodelario), tries and fails to get through to him, she decides that the best course of action is to investigate herself. Ignoring the advise of the authorities, she drives through the torrential rain towards her father’s house. To add another element of dread, she brings her cute little dog along with her.
At the house, she finds her dad, injured and unable to move, trapped in the claustrophobic basement. But just as she’s about to pull him out, a couple of rogue alligators chomp their way through the debris and corner both Dave and his daughter, with just a couple of metal bars between them. But the rain is showing no signs of slowing down; the basement is beginning to flood. And once the water crosses a certain threshold, the gators will be able to swim over the bars and towards poor Dave and his daughter, like hungry diners towards the table they’ve been eyeing for 45 minutes.
As far as horror set-ups go, French filmmaker Alexandre Aja has come up with a rather terrific one. And blessedly, he displays a solid command over his craft, creating a creature-feature that, at an electric 87 minutes long, ends before you’re even able to contemplate its flaws.
There is an efficiency to his filmmaking that I, as a casual fan of his past work, was unprepared for. The most surprising thing about the film wasn’t its relatively streamlined narrative, but the fact that Aja, one of the pioneers of a particularly violent subgenre of horror cinema known as New French Extremity, largely resisted from falling back on his gory roots. And this despite the ready availability of two alligators. Instead, he favours a slow-burn approach, which reveals another layer to his skills.
The geography of the tiny location is easy to understand, which is worth mentioning because so many films overlook this hugely important aspect of survival horror. As an audience, we need to be on the same page as the protagonists. By keeping the viewer in the dark the film risks alienating them; by staying one step ahead it risks coming across as condescending. Crawl just about manages to hit the sweet-spot.
It also helps that the characters – both Dave and Haley – are sympathetic, and easy to root for. And despite a somewhat frequent reliance on cliches – the film is riddled with false hope and false endings – it manages to stay afloat thanks to the committed central performances. As wonderful as it was to see Barry Pepper after what seems like years, Kaya Scodelario, for the first time since her breakout role in the UK show Skins, justifies the expectations that we all had from her. She’s required to do most of the heavy lifting – sometimes quite literally – and delivers the finest performance of its kind since perhaps Blake Lively in The Shallows. It is made all the more impressive because for the most part, she is alone on screen.
The alligators, you see, were almost entirely computer-generated, so as to allow Aja a freedom to craft the tense stand-offs in post-production. But despite their ominous, and near-constant presence, the film’s biggest villain hides in plain sight. The rising water level in the crawlspace brought with it a rather unnerving realisation: Climate change is not only real, but also inevitable.
Through resourcefulness and mental fortitude Dave and Haley could contend with the alligators, but no skill in the world could help them stop the slow and steady barrage of water that they, and everything around them, was being overwhelmed by. Chew on that.