Jack Bottomley, Media Correspondent

Review: Crawl

One misses the days when nature attacks horror films like Luis Llosa’s Anaconda and Lewis Teague’s Alligator made their way to cinema screens. In the last decade or so, a genre built on the mighty shoulders of Hitchcock’s The Birds, Spielberg’s Jaws
and the fun of ‘50s creature features like Gordon Douglas’ Them! has been unforgivably reduced to little more than SyFy Channel schedule filler and bargain bin DVD fodder. Well, not if director Alexandre Aja has anything to say about it.

After previously directing a bloody and brilliant grindhouse-esque remake of Joe Dante’s cult classic Piranha, in 2010s gloriously all out and full-frontal Piranha 3D, Aja returns back to the water but Crawl is a much different beast, figuratively and literally. Adding to a rich history of killer alligator and crocodile films, Crawl is the best of its ilk since Andrew Traucki and David Nerlich’s ridiculously under-appreciated 2007 film Black Water.

Crawl is set in the - uncomfortably timely - midst of forthcoming natural disaster, as a category 5 hurricane is headed for Florida, young woman Haley (Pirates of the Carribbean: Salazar’s Revenge star Kaya Scodelario) heads into the danger zone to check on her father Dave (Barry Pepper) who isn’t answering anyone’s calls. What occurs is a fight for survival against a congregation of alligators, as Haley and her father race against time, combat reptilian terror and try to escape the constantly rising floodwaters trapping them in their old family home.

Crawl is a perfect jaw-snapping antidote to the late summer lag! Like a cool blend of Mikael Salomon’s Hard Rain and Jaume Collet-Serra’s The Shallows (with a rather good Jaws reference thrown in for good measure), this is a well crafted, gruesome and exhilarating watch, reliant on suspense and shock. A prolonged survival story, that puts its small lead cast through hell and keeps you gasping in the process, Aja’s movie is an absolute multiplex-rattling nature attacks film with real bite.

The premise is simple but assuredly delivered, from the rain splattered opening credits (an original visual touch), setting up a very important aspect of our lead’s backstory built on endurance, to a very wild and showy final stretch before a sudden ending, Crawl never sinks thanks to the persistent pace and a script with some poignant human underpinnings. While a knockout score by Max Aruj and Steffen Thum evokes a haunting air of Wallfisch and Zimmer’s score forBlade Runner 2049 and aids Aja’s seat edge set pieces beautifully (seriously, seek this soundtrack out).

Featuring some of the best sets I can recall seeing in a film of this genre (or many others for that matter), it was scorching hot outside when I watched Crawl but I felt I was there trudging through the rising rain-lashed waters in the stormy, flood-washed, gator-strewn sets the film thunderously unleashes. Mixing computer generated and practical design, this really is a triumph of cinematography, as Maxime Alexandre’s indoor and outdoor backdrops realistically capture the aesthetic of real natural disasters and their aftermath (and that is truly scary), while the CGI Alligators are all superbly realised and quite nightmarish.

Scodelario is absolutely terrific in the lead role and seeing her reunion and re-connection through life or death circumstance with her father (very well played by Pepper) makes for a powerful arc to the script and her strong and emotional turn anchors every beat of the plot. The film also features another fantastic canine character/performance in a year full of them (John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum, Once Upon A Time in Hollywood), in Dave and Haley’s dog Sugar (Cso-Cso), who Aja wisely uses to eschew certain conventions of the genre.

Watch it when it's lashing down and blowing a gail outside and get submerged in the chaos!

Director: Alexandre Aja
Starring: Kaya Scodelario, Barry Pepper, Cso-Cso
Release Date: Out Now