There’s something refreshingly straightforward and unapologetic about Crawl. This isn’t a film that comes loaded with subtext or, indeed, any kind of ‘message.’ It is essentially a creature-feature, the story of two people desparately trying to avoid being eaten by alligators. Director Alexandre Aja keeps the narrative to a lean, mean one-hour-twenty-seven minutes, during which time he racks up the suspense to almost unbearable levels. You want jump scares? There are plenty of them here, timed with enough precision to make you jolt in your seat. You want creepy oppressive atmosphere? That’s here too, in abundance.

Hayley Keller (Kaya Scoledario) is a competive swimmer, who, since her parents’ divorce, has become somewhat estranged from her father (and former trainer), Dave (Barry Pepper). However, when a hurricane wreaks havoc on the stretch of Florida coastline where he lives and he repeatedly fails to answer his phone, Hayley is concerned enough to drive over to the family homestead to check on him.

Big mistake. Dave, it turns out, is trapped in the cellar, having been chomped on by a big ‘gator. To add to his woes, the water levels are rapidly rising, giving more ‘gators easy access to the house. Once down in the cellar with her stricken father, Hayley realises that, if they don’t get out of there fast, they’ll both be goners. But escaping turns out to be a whole lot more complicated than she could ever have imagined.

Having quickly set up the scenario, screenwriters Michael and Shawn Rasmussen proceed to put Hayley and Dave (and by default, the audience) through the wringer. Okay, so maybe there’s one attack too many here and some of the hair-raising escapes will prompt the occasional raised eyebrow – particularly when the few other featured characters are made such short work of – but this is largely successful, and the result is sufficiently entertaining to hold my attention to the final frame. A word of warning though. If injury details make you nauseous, this might not be the film for you.

Oh, and one other thing. Any ambitions I might have had to pay a visit to Florida have now been put on hold. Just saying.

4 stars

Philip Caveney


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