By Bradley Lane
The horror genre has long been separated into two types of horror films. Those designed to impress, scare and garner critical acclaim and those with poor production design, low budgets and more often than not, laughable special effects. These cheaply made films would become known as B movies because they would have previously been shown as the second feature in a double billing in theaters of the 1930s. Most of these movies revolve around monsters or creatures that hunt down a group of protagonists and are usually very campy and enjoyed in an often humorous way that is a trademark of the subgenre. It’s a tried and true formula for reaching a very specific audience of hardcore horror fans. They have in one form or another since their inception, continued to be made up until the present day. Crawl is a film that has all the trademarks of a B movie story, but attempts to elevate those elements to a level of seriousness that it struggles to achieve consistently.
Crawl’s story is super simple, another trademark of horror B movies, a daughter travels into a hurricane to save her semi-estranged father. Upon finding her father injured in their old family home basement she discovers that he was attacked by an alligator. The rest of the movie pits the father and daughter duo together against the forces of nature; both the storm as well as the alligators.
Crawl survives on director Alexandre Aja’s horror knowledge and experience. Aja was one of the pioneering members of the French New Extremity around the turn of the century with his 2003 horror classic, High Tension. In it, Aja demonstrated a keen understanding of tension through gripping survival scenarios, gruesome and realistic blood and gore, interesting shot compositions and intelligent writing. Most of these qualities carry over to Crawl, but its script was not written or developed by Aja, and is by far the weakest part of the film. The script does little to separate itself from any other run of the mill horror film. It is thanks to Aja that Crawl manages to work cohesively at all. The script plays out exactly how you would expect and in just about 20 minutes of watching Crawl, most audiences would already expect to see everything the film has to show you. Additionally, Crawl’s weakest feature is actually what is being billed as its greatest asset, the alligators. The alligators are entirely computer generated, and it shows. Plainly put, their appearance does not hold up to any amount of scrutiny and consistently pulled me out of the film whenever they were featured prominently in frame.
Crawl works as a fine, tightly contained horror experience despite lackluster writing and special effects.