Directed by Alexandra Aja. Starring Kaya Scodelario, Barry Pepper. Horror, 87mins, cert 15.

In cinemas August 23rd from Paramount Pictures.

CRAWL arrives on cinema screens late in a season that has been dominated mainly by franchises, reboots and straight-ahead remakes. So it is refreshing in these times to find a small scale, no-nonsense B-movie that knows precisely what it is. The premise is both ludicrous and ludicrously ingenious; a father and estranged daughter find themselves trapped in their house with alligators. It is a low concept that manages to achieve a state of high concept-ness in its commitment to deliver thrills and spills via slick direction and committed performances that a film like this rarely delivers.


Competitive swimmer Haley, Kaya Scodelario, finds herself returning home to her father, Barry Pepper, who for some reason is not returning her calls. With a class five hurricane on the horizon, she returns home to find himself pinned down in the basement with several recently escaped reptilian inmates from a nearby alligator farm. A dire situation that only threatens to worsen with the aid of the quickly rising flood water.


This situation is rife with bloody potential and one that would seem ideally suited to director Aja’s vicious potential. Sadly CRAWL never attempts to rise to the horrible and shocking heights he so memorably achieved with his debut SWITCHBLADE ROMANCE, 2003, and his remake of THE HILLS HAVE EYES, 1996, still one of the more superior horror remakes of recent times. Aside from a couple of inventively gory kills that linger only briefly, Aja seems to have now settled into a mainstream groove delivering great peril with mild scares. The viewer is convinced to go along with the ride however with the help of such matters as a quick pace over a brief running time and a script, penned by Michael and Shawn Rasmussen, who also scripted John Carpenter’s THE WARD, 2010.


Scodelario and Pepper manage to do a tender double act with their convincing family dynamic. The script helps them briefly etch out a compelling history between them and manages to keep the viewer as in the dark as themselves when encountering peril after peril with their carnivorous house guests and in figuring out how to escape from such a situation, although the use of a shower door as protection threatens to snap the wafer-thin veneer of credibility the film just manages to attain. Where the film could fall apart is with the appearance and presence of the alligators themselves. Thankfully the CGI manages to give them a real heft and presence and when they are allowed to go in for the kill on unsuspecting passers-by the film receives an energetic jolt in the arm.


Whilst it may lack the viciousness of Aja’s earlier films and the lack of self-awareness and glee that was evident in his other remake, the similarly aquaphobic themed PIRANHA 3D, and the over the top, go for broke level of entertainment and excitement that producer Sam Raimi usually churns out, it still manages to entertain as a lean but not too mean horror that knows what it is. Sometimes you want to see alligators bite people and more often than not that is what you get here — nothing more, nothing less.


Iain MacLeod.






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FrightFest is the registered trade mark of London FrightFest Limited.
 © 2000 - 2018