Crawl has been getting a lot of press lately. Word on the street is that it’s the perfect summer escape film: a Jaws for 2019. The talk is merited. Crawl is a special film that, amidst bloody catastrophe, makes a not-so-subtle commentary on climate change and enduring father/daughter relationships.

Haley Keller (Kaya Scodelario) is a college student who once trained to be an Olympic swimmer. Her estranged father Dave (Barry Pepper) is retired and lives in a condo with his dog Sugar. Dave’s condo as well as his family home—which he said he sold years ago but never did—are both directly in the path of a category 5 hurricane. Dave ignored the mandatory evacuation so Haley, who can’t get him on the phone, travels to check up on him.

He doesn’t look that great. Haley finds her father unconscious in the continually flooding “crawl” space underneath his condo. And Haley and Dave aren’t alone in that dark dank space: they’re sharing it with a few very large alligators: ravenous creatures that got in through the building’s mammoth drain pipe and are happy to see a potential meal.

Will Haley survive? She spends almost the entire film crawling—and then, when the water rises—floating atop the filthy sewage. Her swimming skills and proven endurance is sure to come in handy (flashbacks show Haley training—and her father is her biggest champion), but out swimming, out maneuvering and outsmarting a team of hungry alligators is a different matter altogether.

So is her father’s infirm, he’s been cut and is wounded and the water is rising quickly: Haley, her father and, yes, Sugar, will be completely submerged within an hour.

Fantastic CGI storm sequences include flooded streets and stores, interiors and a levee break. And alligators seething and hissing in the shadows never looked so calculating and ferocious.

Michael and Shawn Rasmussen’s screenplay is embellished with clever twists and turns, including at one point, Haley having a quiet moment after escaping a treacherous alligator attack—only to realize that she’s taken refuge in an alligator egg nest—and they’re beginning to hatch around her!

Director Alexandre Aja and cinematographer Maxime Alexandre vividly depict five alligator attacks—some unfortunates are eaten alive, some lose limbs, others are torn to shreds by a rabid pack. But the picture’s haunting imagery is as impactful as the gore: it builds tension and suspense and offers up an underwater setting in which death is just a breath away.

Fast moving and, well, fast—only 87 minutes, Crawl is an audience pleasing new and exciting take on an old classic.


Josiah Howard

Josiah Howard is the author of four books including “Blaxploitation Cinema: The Essential Reference Guide” (now in a fourth printing). His writing credits include articles for the American Library of Congress, The New York Times and Readers Digest. A veteran of more than one hundred radio broadcasts, Howard also lectures on cinema and is a frequent guest on entertainment news television.

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