HOLLYWOOD—Have you ever watched a thriller that really found a way to get underneath your skin? I mean, it takes a lot to unnerve me as a moviegoer. I think the last flick that really gave me the squirms was “Arachnophobia.” I’m not a fan of spiders people, and that movie came out in the early 90s. Well, I always say there is nothing more terrifying than Mother Nature, and the thriller “Crawl” proves that when a storm unleashes a bevy of hungry alligators on Florida residents after a massive hurricane, one should be scared.
When you deal with a flick tackling the issue of animals that many consider threats just by hearing their name alone, it helps to center the narrative on those creatures. Director Alexandre Aja does a terrific job heightening the level of suspense for viewers. Aja is no stranger to the horror genre having tackled a similar water threat in the movie “Piranha 3D.”
The movie centers on two characters, and while one might suspect that the lack of characters impact the overall punch of this thriller, that is not the case here. The fact that “Crawl” focuses on the relationship between a father-and-daughter, Haley Keller (Kaya Scodelario) and Dave Keller (Barry Pepper), trying to survive against surmountable odds strengthens its impact of the importance of family. It is vital to note that Haley is a swimmer at the University of Florida, so that gives her a bit of an edge in the family’s battle against some vicious gators.
You might think the recipe of a devastating storm and alligators sell the movie, but it’s not. It is the notion of isolation that works so well. We find our protagonists attempt to navigate survival literally in a small crawl space. Yes, hence the movie’s title. It reminds me slightly of the movie “Buried” starring Ryan Reynolds. I thought there was NO WAY that movie would work with a single character being trapped inside a coffin.
However, it was the level of claustrophobia that sold that movie, which “Crawl” does exceptionally well. It helps to build the tension, the suspense, the fear and the thought of having no escape, with a ton of man-eating, alligators ready to pummel if the opportunity presents itself. You find yourself engulfed in the movie wondering what our protagonists will do to outmaneuver and get an edge up on the antagonist, which is not a person, but an animal.
“Crawl” forces the viewer to think and that is always a great thing in cinema. Any movie that causes the mind to think is a clear sign that you are invested in what is being depicted on the big screen. Now, the movie does lose points for character development because we don’t get much of that from Dave or Haley, and to be honest it doesn’t’ matter much. I entered the theater with low hopes for “Crawl,” but exited the theater quite entertained. It was much more fun than I ever expected it to be.