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Movie Review: Crawl

Face a storm of teeth with Crawl. Image used from

This summer seems to be filled to the brim with horror films, more so than usual. From psychotic stalkers, to killer dolls and ghosts galore, is it any wonder they’re having such a difficult time standing out this year? Well, there’s a chance that we may finally have one movie that can, in the form of a good old fashioned creature feature called Crawl. Can it stand on its own two (or four as it were) legs? Or will it just be an unoriginal dud?

The story for Crawl is, as much I hate to admit it, not particularly strong nor original. The story follows Haley a young athlete who, at the request of her sister, goes to get her dad who is at home in the middle of a hurricane. She finds him in the crawl space under the house injured and becomes trapped herself as there are ravenous alligators who try time and again to make Haley and her father their next meal. Off the bat the film already seems like The Shallows on a smaller scale and is very similar to the film Burning Bright (sans the tiger of course). The story does throw in a family drama conflict between Haley and her father which does bolster the story some however it’s discarded as quickly as it was brought up and it’s a shame because it really could have added some much needed meat to the bones of this film. However, while the story lacks in  strength and originality it more then makes up for it in other aspects. The setting itself is a good place to set a horror film and Crawl uses it perfectly in every sense of the word. There’s a constant sense of claustrophobia as the characters are forced into tight spaces and cramped corners, a strong sense of hopelessness as the very few exits they have are fail time and again and of course other nightmarish things that fall upon our heroes such as a scene where a swarm of spiders falls onto Haley’s face for example was enough to give me a massive shudder short as it was. There’s a strong atmosphere of tension as well as you never know when the alligators are going to strike and when they do the jump scares used are actually quite effective. The film does branch off into other locations so as the setting doesn’t become stale and these moments are very refreshing and even when the film finally moves on completely from the crawl space it still manages to find entertaining, if not insidious, ways for our heroes to fight for their lives. All of this together makes for a very tense, entertaining and fast paced film which helps make up the short comings in it’s story.

The characters for Crawl are good

Haley is a good character not because she is well written but because of her actions. As far as horror film heroes foes she’s pretty average, though still likable. What makes her such a good character is that the world itself wants her dead, be it the man eating alligators or the destruction of the hurricane, and through it all she faces it head on and despite her numerous set backs still keeps going. This is what makes her a truly good character: her tenacity in the face of such dangers.

Dave, Haley’s father, is a fine enough character. His relationship with Haley does add some conflict and just a bit of heart to the film and though not that helpful to their cause his presence is still a welcomed one.

Something else in this film that reminded me of The Shallows was a little character named Sugar. Sugar is Dave’s dog but like Steven Seagull in The Shallows she transcends from simply being an animal to being an actual character. She clearly worries for Haley and Dave and fights on her own and truth be told I worried every step of the way if she she would be the alligator’s appetizer. 

Acting for Crawl is well done

Kaya Scodelario does a very good job as Haley. From the start Scodelario is very captivating and in this film proves herself in being a solid and capable lead. Scodelario is both fierce and energetic being completely enthralled in her role making for an all around entertaining and convincing performance.

Unlike his costar Barry Pepper has no choice but to be subdued. It’s a good performance and he works very well with Scodelario however he just pales in comparison even though his performance is still solid.

The effects for Crawl are very well done 

Firstly the effects for the alligators are incredibly impressive. They’re made entirely with CG and believe me I’ve seen my fair share of abysmal CG effects for alligators and crocodiles but the alligators in Crawl look almost convincing. If you look closely then yes you can notice the effect but the design and even movements look almost realistic and with the film’s budget it’s nothing short of impressive. The storm effects are also well done. There’s some CG used to give the sets a feeling of massive space which helps the illusion. The water and destruction are mostly practical and looks very real and adds to the dire nature of the film. The gore effects are also good however surprisingly Crawl is a very tame film which is shocking considering that director Alexandre Aja’s films tend to be incredibly gory. The lack of gore takes nothing away from the film, in fact it does make the little we see all the more shocking. The practical gore looks convincing and the little CG is also effective.

Final Thoughts: Crawl might not be the most original film or have the strongest story but it more then makes up for that with good characters, good acting, high tension and suspense, good scares, good effects and just being an all around entertaining movie. Crawl a good old fashioned creature feature that would make for a perfect summer afternoon.

Verdict: 4/5

About the Author

Good day to you, my name is Jonathan Gonzalez. For years I've loved movies and have been reviewing them for years, ever since I first saw Roger Ebert on Ebert and Roeper during my freshman year of high school for the first time. I am a graduate of Mercy College with a Bachelor's in Journalism and I have Asperger's Syndrome, something I am truly proud of.

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