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MOVIES: Crawl - Review

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Crawl is one of the most exciting and claustrophobic horror movies of 2019, and one of the best too, a simple plot that eschews any and all sense of filler in favour of getting down to the point and showing what matters, alligators decimating people left right and centre in the middle of a hurricane. Our unfortunate protagonists are Kaya Scodelario’s Haley Keller, a diver, and her estranged father Dave, who is trapped in the family’s old house in the middle of a hurricane that is tearing a destructive path through the state, preventing any and all aid from easy access. It’s into this mess that Haley drives to find her father, unaware of his current state, unaware that there are several alligators lurking nearby the house, not caring who or what they kill.

Set inside mostly one location - an old house - Crawl adds to the heightened paranoia and makes the water the enemy as well as the alligators. It leads to Jaws-level of nervousness, doing a good job at reminding audiences just how intimidating alligators can be and that is in no small part due to just how real they look. The film gives the characters room to breathe – as well as the audience, but these moments come few and far between, only when they are above water, but when below nobody is safe and the suspense is paramount throughout the films' runtime. It’s one of the most outright nervy films in years, and Crawl always has you looking over your shoulder wondering where the gators are and wondering how close they are.

The character dynamic between actors Barry Pepper and Kaya Scodelario is good if predictable, and whilst some of the choices that the characters make do seem fit to only serve the plot and make them come off at stupid at times, it can almost be explained away by the heightened intensity of the scenario and as far as horror films go, stupider characters have made stupider decisions so it wasn’t a deal breaker. Sound is used to great effect here to add to the levels of claustrophobia, and the film predictably escalates in tension towards the final act but doesn’t break the illusion or fear factor.

Sugar the Dog is the real star of the film here and I love a good horror movie where the dog gets a significant amount of screentime. By keeping the cast small it allowed the audience to support every character and want them to survive regardless of their flaws, and Crawl utilises flashbacks to explore the dynamics between the characters. There are occasional moments where credibility stretches too far and you see an alligator draw more blood than you think is possible for a character to still even stand a chance of continuing to walk after that, but it never robs your suspension of disbelief completely as there’s enough here to like about this tightly woven, intricately paced thriller that raises the tension pretty much as soon as Haley arrives in Florida and never overstays its welcome.

There isn’t much in the way of scares with the film very much relying on tension instead, so in that regards it’s not your traditional horror movie feeling more like a thriller. But it’s one of the nerviest experiences of the year, with director of the unconventional, quirky and likeable Daniel Radcliff-starring Horns Alexandre Aja more than proving that he is well versed in the horror genre now and based off this effort his next project will be greeted with eager anticipation. It’s no surprise to see that the film has Sam Raimi attached as a producer and the film greatly capitalises on the real-life danger caused by the hurricane, and with the added race against time that comes with the flood waters rising, Crawl will keep audiences on the edge of your seat from start to finish. If you’re a fan of horror and miss good old fashioned monster movies, Crawl should be right up your street.

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