Horror maestro Alexandre Aja turns to mother nature herself for plenty of serious horror in his all-new eco-horror movie Crawl, and the scares are terrifying!
When a massive hurricane hits her Florida hometown, Haley (Kaya Scodelario) ignores evacuation orders to search for her missing father (Barry Pepper). Finding him gravely injured in the crawl space of their family home, the two become trapped by quickly encroaching floodwaters. As time runs out to escape the strengthening storm, Haley and her father discover that the rising water level is the least of their fears.
When it comes to horror cinema, less is always more when approaching the genre, and that’s exactly where director Alexandre Aja takes us in Crawl. Here the noted horror director strips back all the elements to a very basic story of human survival. With Crawl Aja give us 90 minutes of terrifying suspense as our leads character Hayley (Kaya Scodelario) and her father Dave (Barry Pepper) desperately try to outlast rising flood waters and a pack of ravenous alligators who are on the prowl. It’s an incredibly simple narrative, and this tight and compact story keeps you on edge at all times as Aja throws ever increasingly dangerous twists at his two characters, and really plays with his audiences ability to handle stress and suspense.
Actress Kaya Scodelario takes the lead here in Crawl as Hayley Keller, a college swimmer who is trying to reconcile her parent’s painful divorce, and out of nowhere is thrown into a dangerous journey of white knuckle survival. Scodelario really brings out the natural reaction of fear, and the fight or flight response that empowers our motivations as human beings through her performance. Her naturalistic performance is shaped by a very real sense of fear and anxiety, and her believability only adds to the terror of the film. Through minimal dialogue and performance that is based on action, Scodelario crafts a compelling heroine in the form of Hayley, and the actress cements herself as a major talent that is worthy of some serious attention.
Facing off against Scodelario in Crawl are a pack of ravenous alligators, and these primordial beasts are ready to feed. Using shock value to his advantage, Aja keeps his audience on edge with the fact that you never know when the gators are about to strike. And when they do things get bloody quick! You can’t bargain with mother nature, and Aja uses this to instil a sense of deep fear inside both Hayley and her father Dave, played by Barry Pepper, as they have to unleash their own animal instincts, combined with their raised intelligence, to find a way out from these beasts. Part of Aja’s thematic exploration throughout Crawl is the idea of the apex predator, which we see both in a literal sense with the alligators, and in a more metaphorical sense through Hayley’s will to survive. It’s this battle of predator and prey and the way in which Aja twists these classifications in relation to Hayley and the gators that keeps everything interesting and on edge.
Crawl is a horror movie with a difference and it’s a really innovative film on the part of Aja. Combining both the sub-genres of the monster movie and the haunted house, and staking them in the real world, the director has crafted a picture that really gets under your skin. Packed to the brim with scares, Aja uses shadows, and Crawl’s murky colour palette and production design to keep you on edge, and you never know when the gators are going to strike. His almost documentary style camera work captures a sense of sheer dread and builds nauseating claustrophobia that consumes the entire screen. There’s plenty of underwater action to build your adrenaline here and things certainly get gnarly as Hayley desperately tries to escape the sinking depths of her father’s house and the primordial creatures that lay in wait.
Crawl is also a serious adrenaline rush and it doesn’t let up for 90 minutes! This is white level adrenaline on a whole new level, and just when you think Hayley and Dave might be able to get out, another obstacle is thrown in their way. Add to that a ticking clock and rising water levels and things really get interesting. It’s great to see a horror film where one scene feeds into the next, and it’s filmmaking that absolutely keeps you guessing. Adding to the adrenaline on display here is an eerie mix of musical score and murky sound from Aja’s musical collaborators Max Aruj and Steffen Thum and the duo do a wonderful job of amping the terror up and building out the dread within the audience.
If you like your horror stripped to the bone and ready to pounce, then Crawl is a definite must watch, and you’ll absolutely want to stay out of the water after watching this one. I guarantee it.
Image: Paramount Pictures