Crawl

2019-07-28 10:44
 
Kaya Scodelario in a scene from 'Crawl'.

WHAT IT'S ABOUT:

When she finds out that her father is stuck in their family home in the middle of a gigantic hurricane  that threatens to wipe out a large portion of Florida, pro-swimmer Haley risks her own life to drive into the storm and try and get him to safety. As if the cataclysmic weather wasn’t enough to deal with, Haley and her father, Dave, soon find themselves in a cramped cellar surrounded by an ever-increasing amount of man-eating alligators.

WHAT WE THOUGHT:

This is going to be a short one, folks, because, really, how much is there to say about a movie this simple and this beholden to genre tropes. Remember that movie where Blake Lively spends the entire film in a bikini facing down a huge shark that makes the one from Jaws look like a goldfish? The Shallows, I believe it was called? Well, Crawl is exactly like that. Just, you know, with alligators rather than a shark and much, much worse.

Admittedly, having Blake Lively in not a ton of clothes made sure that your attention never really wondered far from the screen during while watching the Shallows but, less cynically, the truth is that the Shallows worked because a) Lively is an engaging screen presence and a very underrated actor, and b) because the film itself was a nicely paced, well-shot b-movie that steadily built suspense all the way until its triumphant end.

Crawl goes for pretty much the exact same thing but it just never comes together. Kaya Scodelario is a fine actress in her own right, but she never manages to command the screen in the way that Lively does with really very little effort – and, no, I’m not talking about the choice of wardrobe in their respective films. And, sadly, she really needs to be able to have full command of the screen here because there’s not much else going for Crawl.

There is an obvious attempt by director Alexandre Aja (Piranha 3D, Horns) to build tension by having each ‘gator encounter be madder and more extreme than the one before but rather than ratcheting up the thrills, the overall effect here is one of tedium. It’s long before the film’s halfway mark that you can’t help but want the damn thing to end, one way or another. It’s less than one and a half hours long, but it feels much longer.

It’s strange: Aja seems like a solid choice here because he did make the gleefully ridiculous exploitation flick, Piranha 3D, such a fun time at the cinema (quite unlike its ghastly sequel) and Crawl is roughly in the same ballpark, genre-wise. The big problem here, then, probably has a lot to do with Michael and Shawn Rasmussen’s witless, uninventive script that is far too baggy to work as a tight suspense-movie and far too po-faced to work as a fun piece of schlock. It’s just kind of a slog.   

As for Aja’s direction and Maxime Alexandre’s cinematography, this is where things become a bit sticky. The film that I saw was a drab, murky affair, with much of the action rendered all but indecipherable, but – and this is indeed a very, very big “but” <snigger> - it is entirely possible that this might be the fault of the print or the way the film was projected. The trailer looked quite a bit better, but that might just be because I saw it on a laptop monitor with the brightness on full.

As it is, this is the only thing preventing me from giving the film an even worse grade. Even if this was a technical fault in the projection of the film and not the film itself (Maxime Alexandre was the cinematographer on the unwatchable The Nun, after all), I still can’t see myself giving it a much higher grade either, though. Murky or not, the film was still a pretty joyless, bland affair with barely-there characters and a total lack of awareness of its own silliness. Either way, it’s probably best to just give this one a miss.


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