There is, perhaps, no greater cause of man’s fear than nature turning against him. After all, humans like to believe that they can control everything on the Earth, so when nature, or animals, go wild, humans often feel helpless. It’s why storms, earthquakes, and natural disasters can cause primal fear in people, and it’s also why scenarios where animals like dogs or sharks cause harm that people are so often shook to their core. Consider then that two of the scariest films of all time are Jaws (renegade shark) and Cujo (rabid dog). What would happen then if you combine both a strong hurricane that causes widespread damage together with hungry alligators. That’s the scenario faced by the protagonists in Director Alexandre Aja’s Crawl.
Haley Keller (Kaya Scodelario) is fearful of losing her swimming scholarship at the University of Florida. Trained since she was a child by her dad Dave (Barry Pepper), Haley has lately been losing focus and swim meets. When a Category 5 hurricane lands in Florida, Dave goes missing as Haley’s sister who lives in Boston, Beth (Moryfydd Clark), asks her if she can check on their father. Stubbornly braving the storm despite the warnings on TV and of local law enforcement, Haley goes to their old family house right in the way of the hurricane. As she recalls happier times before her parents divorced, Haley desperately searches for Dave in their basement only to face not just the coming storm but the alligator(s!) that have found their way into their home.
With a resume that includes previously directing The Hills Have Eyes, Mirrors, and Piranha 3D, Alexandre Aja has already made a name for himself in the horror genre. Co-producing this film with Craig J. Flores and another renowned director in Sam Raimi, Aja basically bet on himself with a movie that has a small cast but doesn’t skimp on the story and scares provided. In Scodelario, we have a protagonist who looks younger than she actually is but is tasked with carrying most of the film under difficult circumstances. Not only is most of Crawl filmed surrounded by or under water, there is a constant downpour blasting the faces of the actors, truly testing their abilities to convey emotion.
Of course, what makes Crawl stand apart from other suspense thrillers or horror movies are the presence of the protagonists, the alligators. Forget for a few seconds that most of these creatures were probably computer generated and you’d probably be as terrified as Haley, Dave, and the other victims of the gators. Maybe it’s their scaly skin, maybe it’s their dead eyes, maybe it’s the razor-sharp rows of teeth, or maybe it’s the total package. The last film that I recall with a similar predator was Lake Placid, and that was 20 years ago. Most filmmakers still turn to sharks or killer whales as their villains when crafting their suspense thrillers underwater, but perhaps because of Aja’s previous experience with piranhas, he took on the challenge of alligators as his baddies.
By clearly presenting Haley as a competitive swimmer throughout the picture, her ability to hold her breath for prolonged periods of time and her need to swim some distances isn’t such a surprise during the film’s climax. Aja also shows off his own talent in ramping up tension during several critical scenes that will leave audiences howling in fear or grabbing a firm hold of the person beside them. In an age when millions are spent on huge special effects budgets with lots of explosions, a film like Crawl feels intimate and small, but by no means does that mean that you shouldn’t give it a try. Particularly with the rainy weather outside, Crawl might actually resonate even more, hence making the terror even more real.
About the Author:
Jason Inocencio was once the Digital Editor of adobo magazine who still loves seeing great campaigns from all over the world. He proudly shows off his love for all kinds of geeky things, whether it be movies, TV shows, comics, sports, or trivia.