Summer of Horror: Crawl Killer gators and hurricane waders

Crawl is a last minute Summer of Horror substitution, covering for 1981’s Possession, which is impossible to view anywhere legal. I have two killer shark movies coming up so I figured this particular creature feature fit in nicely.

From Alexandre Aja, director of another aquatic creature gore-fest – Piranha 3D – comes this “killer alligators in a hurricane” flick. Although, come to think of it, Crawl is a very different movie from Piranha. Piranha was totally over the top, silly (sometimes cartoonish) and built around buckets of blood and boobs, whereas Crawl is much more intimate and less exaggerated.

A young semi-professional swimming champ sets out in search of her semi-estranged father (and swim coach – that’ll pay off later) in the early stages of a massive Florida hurricane. Dad hasn’t been in contact since his town was evacuated for the storm. Eventually she locates him, injured and trapped inside his basement while the hurricane picks up speed outside, and with the place threatening to flood she attempts to drag him to safety, only to be attacked by a pair of massive gators who have taken up residence in the house. So there’s your premise.

It’s a great suspense setup, with the rising flood waters adding a ticking clock element to everything. There’s a halfway decent body count and some good gore, but in a much more restrained approach than Piranha. This is essentially a two-hander between actors Kaya Scodelario and Barry Pepper. The desperate, terrifying situation they are in doesn’t preclude talking through their fractured relationship and attempting to mend old wounds while suffering from increasingly severe literal ones thanks to the crocs. At times it edges on the line of campy, how often one or the other manages to get chomped by a gator but manages to escape without being devoured, when every other character unlucky enough to go near the house does.

As far as creature features go, this one is incredibly solid. It rides on unsurvivable scenario after unsurvivable scenario, clinging to two characters who were born lacking the ability to give up. Alexandre Aja is famous as one of the few directors tied to the “torture porn” trend of the early 2000’s, and is otherwise a dependable gorehound, but he manages to avoid indulging too much with this one, giving it an element of class. Good acting, good suspense, good monsters. Can’t ask for much more.

Crawl is now available to watch for Hulu subscribers

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