Crawl (2019) Directed by Alexandre Aja. During a devastating Florida hurricane, a young woman and her injured father attempt to escape a flooding house infested by ravenous alligators.
Our tale of reptilian terror begins with a teenage girl named Haley Keller standing at the edge of an Olympic swimming pool with her swim coach father, Dave. Haley gazes out at the water and her rival athletes with uncertainty as Dave smiles down at her.
“What are you, Haley?”
“An apex predator. All day, every day.”
We flash forward to present day and meet Haley in her late 20’s, in the midst of competing in an Olympic tryout. After cutting through the water sleek and relentless as a bullet, she receives word from her sister that a massive Category 5 hurricane is moving inland. Haley jumps in her car and slips through a police roadblock to pick up Dave at his bungalow. He isn’t home, leading Haley back to her old ramshackle childhood home. After her parents divorced, Dave put the big house on the market and moved a few miles away.
After searching the place, which is slowly flooding due to a damaged storm drain that connects a swampy river to the house’s vast basement, Haley finds a gruesomely injured Dave in a crawl space. He’s unconscious and bleeding from a massive bite wound to the shoulder. In short order, our swimmer is introduced to the creature who tasted Dave: a 15 foot long, 1000 lb alligator. She also discovers that because of the beast’s bulk, it cannot enter some sections of the basement that are crisscrossed by pipes. Haley dresses Dave’s wounds, wakes him up and frantically calls for help when local police eventually arrive.
The cops instantly become gator chow.
Now left to their own fates, Haley decides to swim up through the flooding home and try to flag down assistance from the roof. On the first leg of her aquatic journey, she discovers to her horror that the single threat has been joined by several others. They are pouring in through the broken passage leading to the river. The monstrous reptiles bite off limbs, drag humans under in death rolls and smash through windows to attack Haley. Armed with emergency flares and a dead police officer’s gun, Haley uses her smarts to trick the gators and her athletic ability to outswim them.
Still, she is brutally and realistically bitten a few times.
Alexandre Aja gave us “Haute Tension”, the gloriously savage remake of “The Hills Have Eyes”, “Horns”, “P2,” etc. He’s an indelible voice in horror and is currently being courted to direct the next “A Nightmare On Elm Street”.
“Crawl” has a low body count and relies on psychological dread and fast-paced suspense. And it works like hell.
He’s distilled the very essence of survival horror and confined it to a rotting house in Florida, creating a wicked and unpretentious creature feature designed to make audiences cry out at the screen. Aja wants you on the edge of your seat, and that’s exactly where you’ll be. Between the opening credits and final scene, “Crawl” does something that has been sadly rare in 2019 horror.