While not the greatest horror film of all time, Crawl does a decent enough job of building tension with some entertaining violence along the way.
- Effective use of jump scares
- Entertaining kills mixed with the slow-building tension
- Well acted main characters
- CG alligators don't look amazing
- Aligator behavior requires some suspension of disbelief
- Drags around the middle leading to some boredom
- The overall premise is a little hard to believe
At first glance, Crawl looks like it might be a bit like Sharknado with alligators, but it’s nothing of the sort. Instead, it’s a movie that feels more like a traditional slasher or monster movie, only with alligators slotted in the place of a character like Michael Myers or Jason Vorhees. The best way to describe Crawl is one part jaws and one part Halloween.
While it may mix elements of both of those films, it’s unfortunately not neither as good as either of them. Director Alexandre Aja and producer Sam Rami put forth a spirited effort, but it becomes very hard to suspend your disbelief very early in the film.
The main thing that stands out about Crawl is the entertaining kills that happen to the side characters. Each one walks the line on being just bloody enough to be interesting but without going too far. While some of the kills are questionable in terms of the way alligators actually behave, as long as you can suspend your disbelief, having one alligator toss its victim to another is quite entertaining.
Crawl also does a decent job of building tension. It focuses primarily on the plight of two characters, Haley (played by Kaya Scodelario) and Dave (played by Barry Pepper). Alligators have them pinned down in the crawlspace of their home, which is quickly filling up with water.
This leads to a pretty typical story of the two attempting to survive the various attacks of the gators. Though being on the clock does add another layer—they aren’t just trying to avoid being eaten, but the idea of drowning is a very serious risk as well.
Both of the main characters do a good job with their roles. They’re both suffering from serious injuries throughout the movie, and they do a good job portraiting the fact that they’re in immense amounts of pain as they’re forced to fight for survival.
Also, there’s a cute dog in the movie, and it’s used to great effect as a tension-builder.
Unfortunately, there are quite a few parts of Crawl that just didn’t grab me. The very idea that a college student would be willing to drive into a giant hurricane in spite of the police stopping her is pretty ridiculous, which forced the film to fight an uphill battle to get me back in.
And while some of the aforementioned positives helped to bring me back, quite a few issues kept me from giving Crawl a higher score.
With any movie like this, one of the most exciting aspects is seeing the monster for the first time, and the CG of the gators underwhelmed big time. It doesn’t necessarily look low-budget, but there’s a bit of uncanny valley, causing them to look a little bit off.
The gators also don’t always behave the way they would in real life. As it’s a monster movie, you need to accept that they’re going to do stuff outside of the normal for entertainment, but because everything else about the feels grounded in reality, it’s hard to shut your brain off.
The biggest issue with Crawl is one that’s harder to quantify—the movie just bored me throughout the middle. There’s only so much you can do with two people hiding from alligators in a small space, and about halfway through it wears out its welcome, leaving me wishing for things to wrap up.
It picks up a little when new characters are introduced (and promptly murdered), but once it cuts back to our two main characters hanging out under the house, I slumped right back in my chair again.
Crawl released on July 12, so it’s still fairly early in its theatrical run as of this writing. That means you still have time to run out and see if for yourself if the idea of a monster/slasher movie with alligators is something that interests you.
It’s rated R, which makes sense as there’s some pretty gruesome violence mixed with the tension and fear.