Crawl (2019)

A claustrophobic Aja-scarefest that gives gators their Jaws moment with many parallels, mega-impressive storm-of-the-century CGI, breakneck naturalized/primal horror scenes, & 2000’s-exigent backbone of sports characterization – despite screenwriting flaws. 7.6/10.

Plot Synopsis: When a massive hurricane hits her Florida town, young Haley ignores the evacuation orders to search for her missing father, Dave. After finding him gravely injured in their family home, the two of them become trapped by the rapidly encroaching floodwaters. With the storm strengthening, Haley and Dave discover an even greater threat than the rising water level — a relentless attack from a pack of gigantic alligators.

*Possible Spoilers Ahead*

Official CLC Review

A Disaster Epic With Primal Fears

Raimi Returns To His Horror Roots, Eliciting Alexandre Aja To Tell A Terrorized Tale Of FL, Nature, & Gators

Photograph Courtesy Of: Paramount Pictures

Bah dah, bah dah, bah dah. The 1975 Release of Steven Spielberg’s Jaws changed the game of horror – bringing it to natural contexts wherein creatures are the ‘slashers.’ The pulse-rattling terror it sparked with its blockbuster thrills and iconic ostinato score: enough to make you think twice about going swimming in the ocean to-date, for some reason, only seemed to be ~limited mostly to a few s-related apex predators: sharks, spiders, and snakes (and dinosaurs if we’re counting extinct with 1993’s Jurassic Park – the only other one any good). Raimi is here to return to his horror roots of delivering new genre classics like Evil Dead and Don’t Breathe in a team-up with exciting horror talent Alexandre Aja who caught CLC’s eye with his splendid remake of The Hills Have Eyes that even managed to outdo Carpenter’s 1977 original to bring that Jaws-feel to a new lifeform: gators. A claustrophobic Aja-scarefest that gives gators their Jaws moment with many parallels, mega-impressive storm-of-the-century CGI, breakneck speed naturalized/primal horror scenes, & 2000’s-exigent backbone of sports characterization and the climate crisis, Crawl is an exhilarating B-movie creature feature – despite screenwriting flaws & scarily-amaterish/inept dialogue.

The Storm-Of-The-Century

A Canvas Of Striking CGI/Visual Work Evoking A Primal Fascination & Fear Of The Power Of Nature & Climate Crisis

Photograph Courtesy Of: Paramount Pictures

Very impressive CGI adorns this magnificent creature feature – one that feels more like an Avengers-like blockbuster in a natural jacket more than a B-movie horror/thriller. The CGI/VFX are absolutely striking – delivering a primordial, Biblical natural fear that’s extremely refreshing and a lost art in modern, comfortable times (from which many people tweet from behind closed doors veiled disrespects against nature and climate change). The storm-of-the-century we’re forced to witness turn entire neighborhoods into glorified swimming pools for the apex predator of swamp-ecosystems, pour torrential rainfall out of a Noah’s Ark Old Testament parable, and 30mph winds as the Category 5 hurricane and eye pass over the center of the narrative is an experience of the sublime that will humble even the biggest inhumanitarian. The film basically ruins Florida for people by how mercilessly-sadistic, yet plausible the premise is of flooded waters releasing gators into the streets for a mankind-hunt of no survivors – yet hides a critical message in its undertones as well: the climate crisis. One of the most important and deadly side-effects of climate change is the proven rising sea-levels, which factually give rise to increasingly-destructive and more powerful natural disasters like the one on-screen here (cyclones/hurricanes gaining their power and angular momentum by water in the oceans) – so if you’re scared by Crawl, you better take climate change seriously, as it’s going to be reality soon if we don’t learn to care.

The Performances

A Game-For-Anything Kaya Scodelairo Carries This Meagerly-Acted Swamp – With Awful Screenwriting Throughout

Photograph Courtesy Of: Paramount Pictures

The CGI/VFX of Crawl are impressive – the performances: not so much. A game-for-anything Kaya Scodelairo carries this meagerly-acted swamp; she’s the one redemptive factor of an actress, although she does have her shake-moments early-on before finding her sea-legs ironically as soon as the water takes away the dry land beneath her. Barry Pepper’s Papa is okay but overplays the redneck tone, and the rest of the cast is mediocre-to-bad. Worst of all, and what sabotages every actor in the film and, most of all, Kaya: the screenwriting. The screenwriting and dialogue of Crawl borders into Sharknado-territory quite-often, consistently swimming into pointless side conversation waters and delivering to Kaya cringy lines like ‘Marco! Polo! ANYBODY HERE?!’ I feel sorry she was contractually-obligated to say; even Meryl Streep couldn’t have made half these lines sound passable. Indeed, I have to actually wonder if the script-team has ever actually.. seen a movie before – or just wanted to troll audiences with some of the most hokey, inept, lazy, and ineffectual dialogue I’ve heard this year, and I hate the lack of filler even more so given how strong and memorable the rest of the film is. The film does get points for at least trying and sometimes delivering some semblance of characterization and development, all pitching the tee for its main attraction: the horror. The biggest achievement and main attraction we all came to see that Crawl delivers 10x over on, though, is the Horror. Raimi & Aja have managed to make the scariest creature feature I can remember since Jaws and Alien – this film instills a psychotic fear of its biological apex predator: gators.

The Horror

A Skilled Alexandre Aja x Sam Raimi Scarefest Mixing Claustrophobic, Climate, & Predatorial/Primal Fears

Photograph Courtesy Of: Paramount Pictures

Raimi & Aja have done this by skillfully mixing a conglomeration of claustrophobic, survival, natural disaster, and predatorial/primal fears – merging natural environment and suburbia and striking at the perfect time playing off the societal fear of the worsening climate crisis. The naturalized-slasher scenes are absolutely brutal and give gators their Jaws-spotlight, gators being even scarier in CLC’s vote being able to submerge completely beneath water without a fin-giveaway, snatch and pull you under in a second with a stronger torque-force bite capacity, and death-roll you before you even know what happened. Crawl mimics Jaws in many ways in that regard, especially when it comes to exemplifying everything that makes the creature so scary and the extensive use of POV shots from its perspective on the hunt (I just wish the composer had given the gators some kind of orchestral theme to highlight its presence like Jaws did; the score overall is basic and gets the job done, but lacks punch/panache). The brutal kill sequences ever-present throughout as swamp waters flood suburban streets and gas stations evoke a natural terror that’s realistic being that over 1,700+ people are killed yearly by gators (almost 200x more than those killed by shark attacks) and people likely experienced very similar horror in tropical storms/disasters like Katrina ravaged human communities. The film preys on our most primal fears and ones that have been long-forgotten in our comfortable suburban homes: being hunted by a predator fine-tuned by millions of years of evolution that lurks under the water and we can’t even see coming. A reversal of food chains and power dynamics.

The Exigent Sports Backbone

A Temporal Analysis Of Sports & The Effect Of Over-Zealous Parents’ Pressure On The Abnormal Psychological Development Of A Child

Photograph Courtesy Of: Paramount Pictures

There’s an intellectual backbone weaved throughout the film as well: child psychology, through the lens of sports – and specifically, swimming. Additionally playing off nicely-ironically against its gator, storm, and water overarching motifs, the swimming lens takes us into the eyes of a college athlete named Haley who is hyper-focused and ultra-competitive, but loses the opening scene’s race at the last minute. Throughout the film, Haley’s character is developed as being a hungry athlete with an appetite for winning and being the best – a reverberation of her equally-pressurizing dad who instilled this proverbial lust for trophies in her since she was a kid at swim-meets being yelled at from the sidelines. When she loses by sheer chance, coincidence, or mental funk, she feels extremely disappointed and self-conscious – to the point of avoiding team celebrations and being deprived of any joy of the sport. This is an extremely important, 2000’s-exigent theme I’m glad is now tackled cinematically: a temporal analysis of sports and the effect of over-zealous parents’ pressure on the abnormal psychological development of a child. We’ve all been there if we’ve played sports at a high level (me having played AAU/Travel Basketball throughout life, as well as Varsity in HS and intramurals in college), and growing up with parents that intense and demanding can be seriously inhibitive of normal childhood growth – wherein our entire world outlook can be as bleak, dreary, and lifeless as Crawl’s visual tone or a perpetual (mental) storm. Parental interference can turn us off from a sport we truly love making it about winning and perhaps the parent selfishly living through their child’s achievements. Finally, it also erases the great lessons sports can teach us about life: how to win, lose, work with a team, and strive for internal achievement/happiness and fitness. Bonus points for the athlete protagonist being a girl – a refreshing subversion of athletes stereotypically always being male on top of it all. Bravo, Aja.


A Ton Of Scientific Inaccuracies – Like Gators Not Ripping People’s Arms Off w/ 2,000 PSI & Outswim College Girls

Photograph Courtesy Of: Paramount Pictures

Flaws in Crawl circumvent entirely around the consistently-poor screenwriting straight out of Sharknado (earlier referenced). The dialogue is so heavy and amateurish, it’s astounding how awful it is in parts. There are a slew of scientific inaccuracies and plot force I’m shocked made it to screen with how ridiculous they are – like the fact that Haley’s limbs are chomped down on MULTIPLE times by massive gators.. and she pulls them out with barely a scratch on them. Gators have a bite force of ~2,125 PSI (Lbs. per Inch^2) – strong enough to bite clean through steel, yet they can’t sever a young girl’s arm or leg? The first gator Haley meets in the crawl-space that gets a full bite on her leg would’ve tore it off like tissue paper, ending the film right there being how she would’ve both bled out and been unable to outrun a gator without that leg if the film were anything but laughably scientifically-inaccurate. There is legit a line in the finale in which Dave tells Haley she’s ‘faster than the gators’ swimming.’ Alligators can swim at average speeds around 20 mph; humans can swim at an absolute maximum of 6 mph – and that’s Michael Phelps we’re talking about, not some random college girl who can’t even beat her own teammates in a practice swim. Enough said.


A Protagonist That Makes Friday The 13th Teens Look Like Neurosurgeons; Every Possible Chance To Escape Crawl

Photograph Courtesy Of: Paramount Pictures

Additionally, Haley is an extremely-dimwitted protagonist – there are countless ways she could’ve (and any reasonably-intelligent person would’ve) avoided the entire film’s situations: 1. Evacuating FL like everyone else when Category 5 Red Alerts were blaring ‘get out’ all around her (but she was too busy.. swimming), 2. Listening to the police and not going back towards the neighborhood with levees in search of her dad when a tropical storm is raging outside, 3. Not going in the basement/crawl-space (gosh, have you never watched a horror movie before? That’s 101 stuff), 4. Get to the roof right away for the best chance of rescue instead of peruse the house or exterior facades without a care in the world in some scenes, etc. The theme of people in horror movies making bad and ridiculously-idiotic decisions is a well-known one omnipresent in most genre entires and I get that the film’s events couldn’t have happened otherwise, but it’s getting tiresome and this one is a doozy: Crawl’s Haley makes the Friday The 13th teens look like Neurosurgeons in their critical thinking and analytic decision-making comparatively. My goodness.


Jaws For A New Monster

A Claustrophobic Aja-Scarefest That Evokes Natural Terror & Primal Fears w/ Biblical Visuals & Breakneck Scares

Photograph Courtesy Of: Paramount Pictures

Overall, Crawl is a pulse-rattling survival horror epic that turns back the clock to natural/primal predatorial fears we’ve long since forgotten in our soft-and-comfortable suburban lives – a precocious reminder that there are plenty of animals that can easily overtake us on the food-chain if we go into their element. The script is littered with scientific inaccuracies and hokey dialogue/screenwriting that massively saps energy from the film’s otherwise fantastic intangibles and execution, but are mere broken teeth in the jaw of a gator.A claustrophobic Aja-scarefest that gives gators their Jaws moment with many parallels, mega-impressive storm-of-the-century CGI, breakneck speed naturalized/primal horror scenes, & 2000’s-exigent backbone of sports characterization and the climate crisis, Crawl is an exhilarating B-movie creature feature – despite screenwriting flaws and scarily-amateurish/inept dialogue. Life lesson: don’t move to Florida.

Official CLC Score: 7.6/10