Crawl follows a young woman who attempts to save her estranged father from their old home during a hurricane. As the house begins to flood and alligators descend upon the house, they have to find a way to survive.
Director Alexandre Aja hasn't given his fans much confidence since his big hits in the early goings of his career with the controversially gruesome High Tension and The Hills Have Eyes. He followed those entries up with the semi-basic Mirrors, the intentionally campy Piranha 3D, and the awkward Horns. Though he's shown experience in a breadth of horror styles, none have been all that impressive. So when he does a creature feature (based on my definition of "creature feature", of course, which you can catch by listening to our podcast) survival flick around alligators and a hurricane, expectations are low. But, the trailer was promising.
The simplistic setting was used as a means to avoid the hindrance of exposition that can bog down films at times. Once everything is established early on in the film, we are able to immerse ourselves in the gator mayhem. And there is plenty of that.
We've seen this movie before. In fact, this very setting was used in Burning Bright, where a girl and her brother are trapped in a home with a tiger during a hurricane. Crocodilians are certainly not foreign to films, with movies like Lake Placid and the highly underrated Rogue. And being trapped in buildings with blood-thirsty animals was done to much campy acclaim in movies like Deep Blue Sea. So, no, Crawl isn't terribly unique in its plot.
But what it lacks in creativity, it makes up for with large scales and a maw of gnashing teeth. The plot makes room for the right amount of fodder from side characters that allow us to see the violent predatory behavior of the gators without sacrificing every bit of flesh from the two leads. The tension is well orchestrated with the balance between the flooding water and the voracious reptiles, leaving a little room for some forced father-daughter dynamics that never feel as natural as the terror brought on by the lurking beasts.
The unoriginality and bland, sometimes cheesy dialogue don't give Crawl a leg-up in the arena of award-worthy horror films we've seen that juxtapose scares with elements of undeniable humanity. There are tinges of it there, but nothing warranting attention away from the alligators. And this film doesn't really need it. It's just gator carnage in a high-tension setting, and it works. It's nothing more than that, but that's all you need sometimes to have some fun.