08th Aug2019

‘Crawl’ Review

by Jak-Luke Sharp

Stars: Kaya Scodelario, Barry Pepper, Morfydd Clark, Ross Anderson, Jose Palma, George Somner, Anson Boon, Ami Metcalf | Written by Michael Rasmussen, Shawn Rasmussen | Directed by Alexandre Aja

Crawl-poster-1

Famed horror director Alexandre Aja, whose credits include The Hills Have Eyes, Horns, Piranha and Mirrors, returns to cinema screens after a three-year absence with Crawl. A creature-feature set during a category five hurricane in Florida. Crawl follows Kaya Scodelario’s Haley in a desperate state for survival with her father Dave (Barry Pepper) as they both become trapped in his basement that is flooding at an enormous pace. Only to be joined by a few hungry alligators for good measure.

Crawl is a return to form on a few levels. Namely elevating the genre from that of the dwindling and limited explosive creature feature genre that has been reappropriated for a more comedic and less cinematic fortune with features from production company The Asylum. Once in a blue moon, audiences are treated to the more action-oriented features in the likes of Kong: Skull Island, Godzilla, Rampage and The Meg. Crawl returns to the roots of the genre with films like Jaws and Tremors. Taking massive inspiration from the former but landing mostly on the sentiment of the latter.

Where Aja’s film excites is in its use of tension utilised in the tight claustrophobic spaces of its setting and space. The dark corridors and intimacy are reminiscent of Ridley Scott’s Alien, although the camera does not take precedent and slow the pace down like Scott’s 1979 classic, the audience is still treated to frantic and anxiety-inducing sequences of uncertain dread. Undoubtedly helped by the talent of Alan Gilmore and Maxime Alexandre, production designer and cinematographer respectively, that usher in a remarkably immersive sense of stress and pressure with the world and footage captured.

More important is the substantial implications of death and destruction Crawl toys with, thankfully never throwing the characters into lacklustre and PG-13 physical altercations. The characters do not finish the film with a few scratches and a broken nail. They are essentially rag dolls for the film to play with, who are thrown around, bitten and trampled on in terrifying sequences. The CGI for the creatures are slightly hit and miss. However, for a film being of a primarily low budget, the limited CGI creation suffices in their respective role as a silent tense antagonist. That being said, Aja does not shy away from utilising the creatures more often than not. Choosing the right timing to inject their sequences of horror in a restraint and realistic manner, instead of continually overplaying and therefore over saturating their impact.

It is more so the human element where the film falls flat or underwhelms — the performances from Kaya Scodelario and Barry Pepper impress but the layers behind each character fails to instigate anything likeable. Scodelario, who is going from strength to strength in her career as of late, is the highlight with Crawl putting her on the right path regards to developing her range. She wholeheartedly throws herself into the role of Hayley, but there is sadly nothing much to muster in regards to the screenplay by Michael Rasmussen & Shawn Rasmussen, of which massively disappoints.

The weight and themes of the characters in the feature are bland and boring, utilising quintessential conventions that are far more tiresome than they are inspiring. Continually cutting back and forth with implications to childhood trauma and fragility, with the execution not crafting the weighted moral engagement with the viewer to the level it thinks it is. Nevertheless, much of this backstory is redundant and heavily relied on to beef the running time. Without it, the film still relays the same intentions and substantiates the tension and atmosphere of the feature with the characters addressed purely at the moment, resulting in a far greater terrifying plot. It is an integral thread that unfortunately places Crawl in hollow territory, concerning depth, however, considering the genre and the simplicity of the purpose of the film, Crawl just about suffices on an easily digestible level that will entertain horror fans. Just do not expect anything else aside from quick thrillers and spills.

Crawl screened as a Cineworld Secret Unlimited Screening on Monday July 29th 2019. The film has its official UK premiere at Frightfest on August 22nd.

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