Crawl movie review: Alexandre Aja's flair for tension comes alive in a surprisingly good crocodile horror film

The fact that there is not a single campy moment in Crawl is a testament to the classy entertainment potential of creature features.

Mihir Fadnavis August 23, 2019 11:55:00 IST

3/5

There is a moment in Crawl, where a crocodile attacks a woman in her bathroom, and the woman not only hides in the shower, but also later somehow manages to lock the gator in. Normally, one would expect such a scene to be involuntarily funny, but somehow, this moment is exciting and fantastically choreographed, and is one of the many surprises that the film springs on you. Crawl has no business being this good, but thanks to director Alexandre Aja’s sharp eye for horror and tension, it solidly punches above its own weight. 

Crawl movie review Alexandre Ajas flair for tension comes alive in a surprisingly good crocodile horror film

Barry Pepper stars in CRAWL from Paramount Pictures. Photo Credit: Sergej Radović.

Starring Kaya Scodelario as an athlete who must use all her skills to stay alive, Crawl is like a '90s movie that offers pure and simple thrills. Do not bother reading up on the plot because there is not any – this is a survival horror thriller where gators have somehow infested a neighbourhood, and the people in it have become snacks to the jolly creatures. There is an attempt to shoehorn in some agency for our lead, but it is so contrived your eye balls would roll like the gators when they bite into their prey. 

What we are here for is some gold old-fashioned creature feature action adventure. On that front, this film delivers in a big way. There are some genuinely frightening moments here, particularly in the first half, when the film is teasing you with the scope of the horror at play. Director Aja cleverly expands on the shock value as the film progresses, and manages to render the adventure from the point of view of just the protagonist – giving the film a big scale vibe in a small scale location. 

That is not to say this is a tiny little film – in fact, this is an extremely handsome looking movie with terrific production values and visual effects. Even if you are a fan of crocodile-based horror, you have never seen gators as well designed, and realistic-looking and moving as the ones rendered here. The gore, which has thankfully not been censored in India, is adequately fun, although one does wish the film went all out in the limbs tearing off department, like in Aja’s earlier films. All the rain and floods are believably claustrophobic. Scodelario’s performance is so strong it is impossible to not be swayed by the hurricane of cheap thrills you are offered. 

Movies with angry crocodiles is a legit horror subg-enre. Crawl is a nice companion piece to Lake Placid, Primeval, and Dinocroc. It is safe to say that this one’s the highest brow film of them all. The film contains all the combined flair of horror legends Aja, and also producer Sam Raimi, and the fact that there is not a single campy moment in the movie is a testament to the classy entertainment potential of creature features. Like The Shallows from 2016, Crawl is a cleverly designed thriller in a genre costume. Although it will not win any awards, it is proof that well polished ludicrousness is still a perfectly acceptable form of popcorn entertainment. Just double bill this film with the far more campy film The Meg from last year.  

Rating: ***

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