Crawl review

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Heading into UK cinemas this Friday is Crawl – and it’s not a bad way to wrap up the summer movie season.

Certificate: 15
Director: Alexandre Aja
Cast: Kaya Scodelario, Barry Pepper
Release Date: 23rd August
Reviewer: Mark Harrison

At the end of a tentpole-strewn summer blockbuster season, leave it to director Alexandre Aja and producer Sam Raimi to inject a much-needed shot of B-movie exploitation into cinemas. Their new film Crawl is just the sort of wet-and-wild, down-and-dirty thriller that many genre fans have been waiting for.

In the film, Haley Keller (Kaya Scodelario) is a promising young swimmer who’s set to receive a scholarship at the University of Florida. Back home, her dad Dave (Barry Pepper) has stopped answering his phone, right as a category 5 hurricane is due to batter the state. Concerned for his safety, Haley eventually finds Dave injured in the crawl space underneath her childhood home, trapped by a congregation of alligators that have entered the house through a storm drain. As the flood levels rise, Haley and Dave begin a desperate, modestly budgeted battle for survival.

In terms of scale, it leans more towards a similarly Raimi-produced single-location thriller, Don’t Breathe, than Aja’s Piranha 3D. By the same token, there’s significantly more going on with the characters than there was in the director’s previous male-gazey, mildly misanthropic creature feature remake. Crawl is more or less a two-hander between Scodelario and Pepper, a sympathetic father-and-daughter pairing who are more than capable of keeping up the emotional end of things.

Granted, you might question whether their claustrophobic situation is one in which they’d strike up a frank conversation about their issues, centring around their recent estrangement and family problems, but writers Michael and Shawn Rasmussen give the performers (and the gators, if they’re not careful) plenty to chew on.

Heck, it’s not the silliest thing they get up to in their bid to avoid predators and extreme weather. At certain points, the action starts to resemble Florida Man: The Movie, as you imagine the real-life headlines that would come out of certain dubious moments, such as “Florida Woman Makes Phone Call While Swimming Right Next To An Alligator”.

While it’s a nightmarish scenario, the film keeps things manageably preposterous. Aja never trades on easy jump scares, and the jolts (when they do occur) make the most of the terror of having huge, hungry animals in a confined space.

It’s all good fun, and while some of the gory bits push the upper boundaries of its 15 certificate, it remains an enjoyable night out at the cinema. Plus, fans of wordplay can revel in that triple-entendre title.

Over and done in 87 minutes, Crawl keeps it snappy. It doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel, but all the same, its creature-feature mechanics are very well oiled. Perfectly timed for the end of the summer season, this is an entertaining vehicle for its leads, bolstered by some efficient thrills.

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