Alexandre Aja is a filmmaker who has always fascinated me. High Tension is a brutal and unnerving ride that unfortunately fell apart with the major twist. I have not rewatched his 2006 remake of The Hills Have Eyes recently. For better or worse I will never forget it. Mirrors suffered from a bland script that lacked any distinction from many other supernatural horror films of the era. In spite of that it has a fantastic look. Piranha 3D is a whiz bang schlocky creature feature that basks in the campiness of the original film’s premise while adding its own charm. And Horns allowed him to tell a dark story with a little more heart than his previous works. His latest feature Crawl has garnered decent reviews from critics worldwide.
It is now that I fully admit after seeing the first trailer for Crawl I had no interest in seeing it. That is until I saw Aja’s title card. Sam Raimi and Ghost House Pictures have had a spotty reputation for what they’ve produced. (I recently watched Boogeyman for the first time in years and OOF! It was worse than I remembered). With equal parts survival horror and creature feature Aja is back in genres where he is comfortable, but is that always a good thing?
“Apex predator all day.”
The premise of Crawl is a simple one. Faced with a category 5 hurricane Haley (Kaya Scodelario) goes to check on her father Dave (Barry Pepper) who has been ignoring phone calls from Haley and her sister. When she gets to her childhood home she finds her father in the crawlspace injured and unconscious. Things only get worse when Haley realizes to imminent threat of the hurricane is not her only problem. During all this chaos some alligators from a local gator farm (gotta love Florida) escaped and have been wreaking havoc. With the hurricane bearing down and dangerous predators nipping at her heels Haley has to get herself and her father to safety.
None of this is groundbreaking storytelling by any stretch of the imagination. Thankfully Aja has the sense to infuse these tropes with his sensibilities and it works tenfold. Using the rising water level as a ticking clock was a smart choice. This immediately makes viewers feel the tension in a unique way. It also allows for the fighting ground to consistently change. Every time it feels like Haley and Dave may have a chance at succeeding the hurricane throws another colossal problem their way. It’s always unnerving seeing these characters have to make decisions on the fly hoping for the best. It never feels like they’re making stupid choices to progress the story, but instead are doing what they can with what they’ve got. In turn we have an equal amount of successes and failures with each plan the pair hatch.
“We can defeat these pea-brained lizard shits.”
Kaya Scodelario is an actress who I’ve been keeping an eye on for a few years. Back when she was in the British version of Skins she showed promise in spite of her character being underwritten at times. And while she has steadily been gaining notice with The Maze Runner series and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales she hasn’t achieved the starring role she deserves. Here she proves she can carry a film and hopefully we’ll see her pick up steam after this. The only other person who gets any real screen time is Barry Pepper. He’s always been an actor who does great work that often gets overlooked. His performance does get outshined by Kaya, but he gives a solid performance with what he’s given. Thankfully, the duo work well together giving their father/daughter relationship some real emotion throughout the film.
Crawl could’ve been another cheesy genre film that ranks a tier above its direct to video counterpart. Instead it turns out to be a fun ride. After all this time it’s a shame Alexandre Aja hasn’t been asked to helm bigger projects. I personally would love to see his take on Hellblazer or even a reboot of Ghost Rider. Can someone please give the man a blockbuster?
Overall Score 4/5