CRAWL **** USA 2019 Dir: Alexandre Aja. 87 mins
A straight-forward, in-and-out-in-less-than-90-minutes revolt-of-nature survivalist horror flick from the filmmaker who kick-started the French splatter renaissance of the early 21st century. Eerily foreshadowing the real-life Category 5 Hurricane Dorian that threatened the Florida coast a couple of weeks after its UK cinema release, CRAWL is proficient contemporary B movie filmmaking following in the tradition of recent high concept creature features like BURNING BRIGHT (tiger in a house during a hurricane!), BAIT (sharks in a supermarket!) and THE SHALLOWS (one girl, one rock, one shark!).
It’s stripped down to two central characters -everybody else is walking chum- and one main (flooded) interior set and, in a year when several Hollywood horror films were pushing the three-hour mark, it knows when to quit. Kaya Scodelario impresses as a gifted college-age swimmer who visits her dad (Barry Pepper) just as Hurricane Wendy batters the South Florida coast. He’s unconscious and injured in the crawlspace and soon both are at the mercy of a pair of alligators that have invaded via the storm drains while the house fills up with water. Flab-free and consistently suspenseful, CRAWL dispenses with exposition, keeps its family backstory concise and gives us an impressive, atypical heroine who’s worth rooting for. The ‘gators are brought to life courtesy of a first-class combination of physical FX and CGI, while Aja occasionally indulges his fondness for gruesome physical mutilation.
Review by Steven West