Review: CRAWL – Storms and Gators and Dogs, Oh My!

Hey, you know those movies that you know are beyond silly but you just love them anyways, warts and all? The new release CRAWL is this movie. It is delightful in its simple existence as a movie that seeks out to entertain, get you pumped up, a little scared and claustrophobic in a singular setting involving a storm and alligators. Oh and there’s also an adorable, fearless dog who steals the show.  

The simple premise is wildly effective; Haley (Kaya Scoledario) is a swimmer who returns to find her father (Barry Pepper) in the midst of a storm in southern Florida after he is not heard from. As Haley gets home and finds her father trapped, the storm spirals out of control and with it comes a lot of chomping alligators ready to hunt. 

The majority of the running time is spent fighting off the alligators in their house and the filmmakers surprisingly get a lot of mileage with the father who is trapped underneath the floorboards with several chomps in him already. 

The movie works entirely on the shoulders of young actress Kaya Scoledario, who is a solid action presence here. It’s mostly an “acting is reacting” type of performance and she has a lot of solid material to work with. I liked the swimming poo opening that sets the tone of the film (in a solid opening credit sequence). It’s also nice to see Barry Pepper in a fun role here too as her father who spends most of the time in pain and trapped underneath, but still remains interesting.

AND THE DOG! Much along for the adventure, Sugar The Dog is involved, running right alongside her pack and herself running away from danger. I can only imagine what is going through her mind, but she remains a faithful companion, as all dogs do. As a dog lover, it’s just a welcome addition to the fun. 

CRAWL is directed by Alexander Aja, who burst in front of my eyeballs with HIGH TENSION and soon became no stranger to B-film schlock like THE HILLS HAVE EYES and PIRANHA 3D. Both of those movies went overboard on their abundance of gore and here in CRAWL it’s reigned in quite a bit. You don’t actually SEE most of the carnage from the alligator hunting but rather the red result in the water and the aftermath, which I found really effective. 

What I also admired was just how much of a theatrical experience this was. The very wide-angle photography breaths very well on the big screen and is paired with a very powerful sound mix with action coming from all directions. This is a movie where you want to seek out your local theater that has the best in picture and sound projection for the most impact. 

You may forget CRAWL the moment the credits end, but that’s also kind of okay too. This is the better half of a late summer drive-in double bill that has its heart on its sleeve and aims to please, coming on strong and then gone. Though you won’t forget the dog. 

Rating: *** out of ****

CRAWL is now in theatres.

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