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edge staff writer


See you later, alligator – ‘Crawl’

July 16, 2019
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Appearances can be deceiving.

A lot of the time, you can watch a trailer or two and just KNOW that particular movie is going to be good or bad. A handful of seconds of footage and a basic idea of plot and provenance and you feel confident of your opinion. This movie will be great, that movie will be terrible, etc.

But sometimes – not often, but sometimes – your seemingly solid take is dead wrong.

I was pretty sure “Crawl” was going to be a bad movie. The overwrought scenes in the trailers, the fundamental silliness of the central plot – all of it spelled mediocre-at-best genre fare. It was the sort of movie that I almost didn’t bother to see, so sure was I of what I would get. Seriously – if we’d had three wide releases this week, this would almost certainly have been the unseen bronze medalist.

I’m man enough to admit when I’m wrong.

Now, I’m not saying that “Crawl” is a GOOD movie, because it is not. It is shlock. But it is beautifully sincere, well-crafted shlock. It is shlock that is gleefully and unapologetically itself. It is fully committed to the bit to such a degree that it quickly becomes extremely hard not to lean into it yourself.

Basically, you never forget how ridiculous it all is, but neither does the movie, and so everyone just embraces it and has a fantastic time.

Hayley (Kaya Scodelario, “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile”) is a college student and competitive swimmer; she’s on the team at the University of Florida, although she seems to be struggling a little to stay competitive.

When she receives a call from her sister Beth (Morfydd Clark, “The Man Who Invented Christmas”) expressing worry about the massive hurricane coming their way and her inability to reach their father, Hayley takes it upon herself to head to her hometown in an effort to track down her dad and make sure he finds his way to safety.

Driving into the teeth of the storm, she gets to her dad’s condo and finds it empty … and now she knows where he is. She scoops up the dog and drives to the house she grew up in – a house that is no longer home now that her parents have divorced. His truck is in the driveway and the door is unlocked, but there’s no sign of him.

So she heads down into the crawl space underneath the house. That’s where she finds her father Dave (Barry Pepper, “Maze Runner: The Death Cure”) unconscious and badly hurt, with open wounds and broken bones. That’s also where she finds the cause of her dad’s injuries – a gigantic alligator. And he’s not the only one.

She drags him to a safe spot where the gator can’t reach them, but the storm is surging and the waters are rising terrifyingly fast. The two of them are trapped in this space, doomed to drown in the flood unless they can figure out a way to get past those alligators and out of the house.

But the clock is ticking. They have a limited window to avoid drowning – and that window is blocked by a mean alligator that is out for blood.

See what I mean? This is B-movie nonsense of the dumbest sort. Trapped in a basement with an alligator? It’s an idea that would feel at home on a drive-in screen in 1974 or on a third-tier VHS release in 1983. This is a concept that is decades behind its time.

And yet … it works.

Again, it must be emphasized that “Crawl” is not a good movie. However, it should also be emphasized that “Crawl” is an undeniably fun movie.

The primary source of that fun is the sheer abandon with which everyone involved throws themselves into the proceedings. From the top on down, these people know EXACTLY what kind of movie they are making – and they commit to it with glorious élan. And by adding that sort of panache to the equation, everything starts to add up.

Director Alexandre Aja has a history with pulpy genre fare; that experience goes a long way toward making the movie work. There are stretches of gory ridiculousness shot through with bits of sick humor; there’s more than one shocked-laugh moment here. Screenwriting duo Michael and Shawn Rasmussen clearly share Aja’s sensibility as well. The end result is a behind-the-camera team that is all very much on the same page.

The effects stuff and action sequences are OK; there are a handful of shots in which our CGI alligators are VERY CGI, if you catch my drift, but if anything, it only enhances the over-the-top nature of the film’s more gruesome outbursts (no spoilers, but you’ll know them when you see them).

And let me just say – Kaya Scodelario f---ing GOES FOR IT. And we are so lucky that she did; she strikes the perfect tone for what this movie needed from its lead. Ditto Barry Pepper, who appears to really love doing bonkers genre movies; sure, work is work, but he genuinely seems to dig doing this sort of stuff. All other characters exist to a) advance the plot, b) die horribly, or c) both. As it should be.

It’s not so much that I was wrong about the quality of “Crawl” itself so much as the quality of the experience. If you’re looking for a summer blockbuster or award contender, well … keep looking. But if you want a throwback good time, a movie where the flaws are fun and the fundamental stupidity is a feature, not a bug, then God help you – you want “Crawl.”

[3.5 out of 5]

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