Released: 11th July
Seen: 30th July
One great thing about Horror is it has many subgenres and every subgenre has its standout movie. Slashers have Halloween, Zombies have the George Romero trilogy of Night/Dawn/Day of the Living Dead and Found Footage has The Blair Witch Project. There’s a pantheon of iconic movies in each subgenre that help confirm horror as one of the most diverse and fascinating genres of film. The movie we’re going to talk about today, Crawl, fits into the subgenre known as Natural Horror which has given us classics like Jaws, The Birds and Cujo. It might be a little early to make this kind of call, but I would be willing to say that Crawl might be up there with those movies as an example of a great natural horror movie.
Crawl’s plot is so simple that it’s kind of brilliant. Haley Keller (Kaya Scodelario) and her father Dave (Barry Pepper) are caught in the crawlspace under their house with a pair of alligators. That’s it, that’s everything that happens. Two people, two alligators, the people have to find a way to get out without the alligators getting them. Oh, also while they’re trying to get out there happens to be a Category 5 Hurricane just outside so no one’s coming to get them, the water is slowly rising and the alligators are getting more irritable by the minute. It’s a battle of wits against one of the biggest predators on the planet and for 90 minutes, there’s no telling how this one is going to end.
The great thing about a simple plot is that it allows the director to focus mostly on the mood and the tension and you can tell that every bit of time and effort went into making sure they got the tension in this film just right. It’s incredible how well thought out everything is, from the small spaces where the alligators can’t get in, to just how fast the water is rising. The more the water rises, the more dangerous the alligators become and the more urgently the two leads need to get out. By the 30 minute mark, you will be on the edge of your seat and by the end of an hour, you’ll be on the edge of the seat in front of you. It doesn’t let go, there’s no real chance for the tension to drop because every single second is a second closer to the Alligators grabbing our leads or the water rising another inch to drown them. It’s also brilliantly shot in such a way that you know at all times exactly how many ways they could potentially get out, and exactly why they can’t go in those general directions.
The way this film is shot is amazing. It spends a solid half of its runtime in a basement under a house with minimal lighting and it’s claustrophobic as hell, and the film makes damn sure you feel that. Every shot makes sure you see how little room the characters have to move, how they can just barely see far enough to know where the alligators are. It’s so careful in how it uses the shots that when they have you in the palm of their hands, they can make a log float past the camera and have you thinking it’s another Alligator. Every shot just helps make that tension skyrocket to the point that by the time you get to the end, your blood pressure will be through the roof.
Now, there are some mild problems regarding effects on the alligators. Since they can’t just use actual alligators (because apparently there are laws against that, which is lame) they’re using a lot of CGI animals and when they’re in the dark or barely popping out of the water, that works… when it’s a full shot of the alligator that’s well lit and clearly not real? I mean, that does kind of hurt the film a little bit but fortunately most of the time they know to hide the damn creature so it’s not that bad.
Crawl does the exact thing that I asked it to do. I wanted a nice tense movie about alligators messing with a father and daughter and that’s what I got. I also happened to get some genuinely great performances and enough terrifying atmosphere to last me for a long time. It’s a film that grabs hold of the audience and drags them along for one hell of a ride.