Movie review / ‘Crawl’ (MA)

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Barry Pepper and Kaya Scodelario in “Crawl”.

“Crawl” (MA)  **

ALLIGATORS are large (average mass 360 kilograms, average length four metres) fresh-water crocodilians native to only Florida and Louisiana, where they perform useful ecological roles, and China, where a smaller species found only in the Yangtze River is endangered.

French filmmaker Alexandre Aja casts them as villains in this thriller written by brothers Michael and Shawn Rasmussen and filmed in Serbia (where they may well have got better bang for their film’s estimated$US13 million budget, spent mainly on special allegatorical effects.)  

It is claimed (by whom, I can’t find out, but somebody claimed it) that an actual event during Hurricane Florence in September 2018 inspired it. If so, “Crawl” is a testament to opportunity quickly seized and exploited.

The film is basically a two-hander involving Dave (Barry Pepper), a father whose marriage is down the plug-hole and his daughter Haley (Kaya Scodelario). Dave has devoted Haley’s life to her career as a freestyle swimmer. He has put the family’s Florida home on the market. After a day of a category 5 hurricane, the prospect of finding a buyer looks slim. But that’s not the film’s main objective. 

In the basement (I’m told that few Florida houses have basements) Dave is lying injured. Haley defies a police roadblock to see how he is coping with the storm. He’s not alone down there. He has at least one alligator for company with more on the way.

What the film boils down to is how, before the alligators reach them, Haley is going to get Dave safely up to the roof, where hopefully a rescue helicopter will see them. 

I came to “Crawl” expecting to find a pale imitation of that classic aquatic predator thriller “Jaws”. It’s not. Wisely, Aja has gone into the basement and stayed there trying to save Dave and Haley while disaster develops all around them.

Some of the animal events stretch reality more than a little. Some of the human crises ditto. But less meritorious movies have been made around those tension elements. And it’s all over in a mere 87 minutes including closing credits.

At Dendy, Limelight and Hoyts Woden

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“Crawl” (MA) **
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Dougal Macdonald
“CityNews” film reviewer

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