Tuesday, 24 September 2019
Directed by Alexandre Aja
UK cinema release print.
Okay, so I didn’t bother with Crawl when it premiered at FrightFest a few weeks ago because a) I knew it was getting a general release the same week, b) I have no interest in alligator thrillers and c) I am not all that taken with the cinema of Alexandre Aja. It was always my intention to just let this one crawl right past me but so many people said, something along the lines of ”No, you should check this one out, it’s really jumpy and you’ll have a good time with it.” So I did.
So many people were wrong.
Although, to be fair, the movie does get a little bit jumpy from time to time but only because, in an unusual bid for a lack of character logic which is ropy in modern thriller and suspense movies anyway, the characters outdo themselves in behaving in a manner which gives them, surely, the least chance of survival possible. This plus an almost unprecedented level of ‘lets see how much bad luck we can pour on to manufacture an extended dramatic situation’ not experienced since the mini masterpiece that was Gravity (reviewed here).
Now, to be fair, the performances here are top notch with the astonishing beauty of the last Pirates Of The Caribbean film (reviewed here) that is Kaya Scodelario playing swimming champion called Haley, who has to go and try and rescue her injured father Dave, played equally well by Barry Pepper, from a basement in a house in New Orleans during a major hurricane. Alas, it’s not long before both of them find themselves in a basement slowly filling up with water but unable to leave because of various alligators swimming around said basement and treating it like it’s their personal cafeteria.
Oh, wait. Did I mention Haley’s a swimming champion? Of course I did. Because that’s obviously the most convenient kind of person to get trapped in a sink or swim situation underwater with carnivorous reptiles. In fact, the whole film is about keeping this one spark of an idea going in the most blatantly fabricated ways possible. Don’t get me wrong, in some ways this is quite a nicely made film in its ability to pour on the shock moments but it just feels like there could have been less silly ways of doing these kinds of things other than giving this wonderful cast incredibly, unreasonably stupid characters who can’t figure their way out of this and then relying on a load of frequent, freak coincidences to give them ways of trying to escape.
In fact, I was quite relieved on a couple of fronts where the director sets things up and he didn’t actually yank those threads at all. For instance, the singling out of a tattoo on Haley’s arm in the opening sequence was, I was sure from the moment we saw it, so we could identify the arm when it was floating loose from the lead actress later in the movie. As it happens, the tattoo shot turned out to have no such relevance at all. Secondly, the introduction of a certain kind of character looked like she was there to just get eaten quickly to deliver the necessary shock moment but, I’m glad to say, that particular character did not meet the fate I’d immediately assigned to her. Indeed, without giving too much away here, this one character showed more common sense throughout the whole movie than both father and daughter combined so... yeah... I won’t spoil that one for you.
But, yeah, it doesn’t take too long for the writers to start bringing in peripheral characters like looters and rescue cops in, just to the keep the body count ticking over and so the people trapped can freak out a bit more as they see the number of items on the menu diminishing once more. Again, it's something I could have done without but it's not an unusual step for movies with a killer element in them to take... in order to remind the audience just what is at stake here. So I guess I can’t moan about it too much although it does, it has to be said, seem to just call attention to itself in the most blatant way possible here.
Now, I might not think that much of Aja for the most part but he does know how to put together a competently crafted movie, despite blatant plot devices, so there are some nicely done scenes of suspense and a sense of claustrophobia throughout the film but, ultimately, a lot of the good work here is undermined by having characters who would be cover poster stars for a book entitled ‘What not to do if you find yourself trapped in the middle of a hurricane, about to drown, with a load of alligators.’ So, yeah, I had mixed feelings about the movie.
It also didn’t help that new ‘laws of motion picture natural history’ seem to have been applied here. Not that an alligator would go too much out of their way to attack a human but, if they did, this film introduces us to the rule that, if an alligator is swimming after you and you hop out of the water onto land or a bit of furniture, then it’s unable to follow you. What the heck? Seriously, there’s one point in the story when Haley is swimming for land and then, when the land slopes up to take her onto, relatively, dry land... the alligator who was just seconds away from biting her ankle immediately gives up. This seemed a bit far fetched to me, it has to be said.
Other than that, though... the film was fun in places but ultimately I wasn’t riveted to the screen and I also noticed the film had less exploitation value than most films which feature scantily clad ladies swimming about for hours in high levels of water. The goriness of the effects seemed a bit wanting too, which seemed to me a bit out of kilter with the reputation of the director. And make no mistake, this is definitely a movie which is trying hard to be a modern exploitation movie, for sure. It just doesn’t necessarily succeed at it too well... at least, that’s how it seemed to me.
So that’s me done on this one. I’m quite happy that I did get to see Crawl on my Cineworld Unlimited card and not have to pay out for a Blu Ray at some point in the future.. so that’s a possible silver lining, I guess. Also, I’d have to say there are certain people who I know who I could recommend this movie to because I think they might get a kick out of it... I just wouldn’t include myself on that list, in regards to this movie. I don't ever need to see this again.