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Crawl ••

Starring: Kaya Scodelario, Barry Pepper, Morfydd Clark
Director: Alexandre Aja
Screenplay: Michael Rasmussen, Shawn Rasmussen
Action/Drama/Horror, Rated: R
Running Time: 87 minutes
Release Date: July 12, 2019



(Dr. Scott Allison, Professor of Psychology, University of Richmond)

Greg, don’t walk and don’t crawl to this latest review.

If you like Aliens, Jaws, and The Poseidon Adventure, you just might like Crawl. Let’s recap:

We meet a father, Dave (Barry Pepper), and his daughter Haley (Kaya Scodelario), who are living in south Florida. There is a terrible hurricane approaching and Haley is worried about her dad’s safety. She defies police orders to stay away from her Dave’s neighborhood and drives to his home as the storm rages. He is nowhere to be found, but his dog is barking at the entrance to the crawlspace.

Haley is a budding Olympic swimmer. But she has a confidence issue. When she finds her father trapped in the rapidly flooding basement, she has to enlist her swimming skills to save her, her father, and their yapping dog. But does she have the confidence in herself to pull it off?

Greg, I have a confession — I’m a big fan of movies and television shows involving deadly creatures chewing on live human flesh. We’re talking The Walking Dead, Jurrasic Park, even Hannibal. What this says about me, I don’t want to know. But I find these movies deliciously creepy and enjoyable.

So you’d think that I’d love Crawl. After all, this film is 90 minutes of Dwayne-Johnson-sized alligators chomping down on innocent people’s arms and legs the way most of us chew happily on a KFC chicken dinner. There’s everything a sick puppy like me would ever want to see – plenty of gore, gruesome bite marks, crimson water, the tearing of flesh, and even a shot of a gator decapitating one helpless dude in a single bite. I was in heaven.

But for some reason, I couldn’t get into this movie. I think my indifference stems from the fact that structurally the film fits a movie genre I’m not thrilled about, namely, the horror movie genre. In a typical horror film, people arrive at a house or community completely unaware that a ghost or demon or monster inhabits the house or community. One by one the people die. This format describes Crawl and I don’t find it very interesting.

I will say this: Whomever decided on the title of this film should be fired. Crawl? Really? Why aren’t words like “gator” or “jaws” or “teeth” in the title? Crawl is perhaps the lamest, most ineffectual, and least descriptive title one could come up with.

I agree, Scott. Crawl describes the speed with which this film unfolds. It is slow, plodding, uneventful, and just a crashing bore. And, to your point, the alligators don’t crawl… they swim. And, to my understanding, they swim really fast. I was really surprised to see the hero of the story outswim alligators – who are designed through evolution to navigate the waters as their natural habitat.

And, also to your supposed delight, our hero gets bit more than once. Yet, she doesn’t really seem to sport any real damage. Alternatively, the unsuspecting young police officer who comes to her aid is fully dismembered. It’s a confusing mess of a film. There is a little foreshadowing of a sequel. In a shot reminiscent of Aliens, Haley discovers a nest of alligator eggs. Hmm… maybe the next installment will be Crawls?

I had some hope when it was clear that Haley suffered from confidence issues in her Olympic swimming trials. And that this experience was going to grow confidence as a swimmer and as a woman. But the ending of the film was completely lacking in building on that hope. So, Haley as a hero looks pretty good (she’s strong and highly competent in her swimming skills) but the message that you can overcome your lack of confidence by outswimming alligators in their natural habitat seems pretty far-fetched.

Crawl isn’t a bad movie but it is a story limited by the horror genre’s requirement that people die, one by one, at the hands (or claws) of an evil monster. The only suspense lies in the resolution of the story – how do the good guys dispose of the monster? I give this film credit for bringing a slightly estranged father and daughter together to combine forces in slaying the dragons. That gives the story some semblance of satisfaction, although all I can muster is a rating of 2 Reels out of 5.

Our heroes are challenged by a bunch of bulked-up alligators that have spent way too much time working out in their swamp-gym. Dave and Haley must use their wits and their teamwork to accomplish their heroic mission, which is basically survival. As hero missions go, mere survival is not one of the better motivations for making the world a better place. Still, our heroes do rise to the occasion, they acquire courage and resilience, and their father-daughter relationship is transformed. For these good reasons, I can award 3 Hero points out of 5.

The message of the film appears to be centered around the importance of family, and how we should all mend our bonds with family members before we are eaten alive by oversized reptiles. This is actually a good message. We do tend to let petty things separate us from the people we love, and life is too short for pettiness. An ancillary message is to heed hurricane warnings. When you have plenty of notice to get out of Dodge, then get out of Dodge. If you don’t know what “get out of Dodge” means, that’s why God invented Google. I give these messages a total of 3 Message points out of 5.

Movie: Message: Heroes:

I didn’t expect a lot from Crawl – except a Jaws-like rip-off. So, I was pleasantly surprised to find a father-daughter reconciliation story baked in. I was sufficiently entertained by the alligator attacks and killing off of looters. But I won’t be back for seconds. I give Crawl 2 out of 5 Reels.

I love father-daughter movies, so I was pulling for these characters to mend their ways. The final frame of the movie with Dave smiling with admiration as Haley triumphantly waves a flare (Statue of Liberty style) was touching – but not a well-earned payoff. I give Haley just 2 out of 5 Heroes.

Finally, the message that we need to mend our issues with loved ones wasn’t overly well-delivered as we never really came to understand what separated our heroes. And the message that you can overcome your demons by escaping alligator carnage falls flat. I can only muster 2 out of 5 Message points.

Movie: Message: Heroes:

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