Blu-ray Review: Crawl

Crawl is a movie with a simple concept: a father and daughter find themselves trapped inside their alligator infested home in the middle of a hurricane. This may sound wacky when you read it, but the way director Alexandre Aja brings it to life on the screen makes it anything but. Unlike movies like Sharknado, where it’s meant to be cheesy and goofy, Crawl is a more intense flick that pits person against nature and tries to keep it as realistic as possible while doing so but is also incredibly entertaining with its fair share of over-the-top moments.

The film stars Kaya Scodelario as Haley, a competitive college swimmer who, at the request of her sister, heads back to her childhood home to check on their dad, Dave (Barry Pepper) who neither sister can get a hold of over the phone. What’s so pressing about getting in touch with him? Well, a massive hurricane is right on top of him and they’re unsure if he’s gotten out okay. Turns out, he hasn’t. Hayley ignores the warning of the local police and drives around their roadblock to find her dad. She does so when she heads under the crawl space at their old home, which her dad was supposed to have sold after her parent’s divorced.

The thing is, Dave is badly injured and unconscious when Haley finds him below the house, and she finds out why when she tries to get out of the crawl space to get help: there are incredibly aggressive alligators trapped down there with them. These are massive beasts, so there are a few places both Hayley and Dave can hide that the gators simply can’t reach them, though there’s another problem in that the crawl space is filling up with water quickly thanks to the massive storm outside, so waiting the hurricane out just isn’t an option.

Now, it’s easy enough for a movie like this to go off the rails, and while that can sometimes be fun, it’s even better when it stays on course, keeping things as realistic as possible while delivering on all fronts when it comes to entertainment. Writers Michael Rasmussen and Shawn Rasmussen have done this by properly spacing out the alligator attacks early on, while also forcing Hayley and her father to face their fractured relationship and the reasons why they’ve lost touch in recent years. Balancing such different emotional tones isn’t easy, but the script nails it, as does Aja’s direction.

The film is just under 90-minutes in length, and Aja makes sure he gets the most out of every minute. Nothing feels forced when it comes to character, as Dave and Hayley must work together to survive and in moments of bleakness when all seems lost, they begin to unravel how they got to this point. It’s natural and it works, as the film is paced beautifully with the intensity never really letting up, even in these more character-driven moments.

Let’s talk alligators though, as, let’s not kid ourselves, that’s the main draw here. There are plenty of alligators and alligator attacks, and the design and effects team have made them seem as realistic as one could hope for when it comes to a movie about CGI alligators infesting a home and terrorizing a father and daughter during a hurricane. While it’s a bit crazy in theory, the scenario in the movie actually seems plausible, which is another reason why it works so well.

While the main focus of the movie is on Hayley and Dave, there are a few stragglers in the neighbourhood that help keep the alligator action going along the way. This is a bloody movie, but it’s not needlessly gory. The attacks can be vicious and unforgiving, but they’re realistic in terms of how alligators attack and take down prey, so it’s fitting. As mentioned before, Aja does a great job of pacing things out, and while you’d think being trapped in a crawl space with alligators in the middle of a hurricane couldn’t be topped, the movie just keeps getting more intense as it progresses.

I did mention that Crawl has its fair share of over-the-top moments, and that’s true. As the movie heads into its second half things really ramp up to the point where a suspension of disbelief will help in your overall enjoyment of the film; however, if you were going into this movie with a mindset other than that, well, odds are you wouldn’t have been entertained by it regardless. For everyone else: Crawl is a fantastically fun, wildly intense action flick that will have you rethinking your retirement plans to Florida, guaranteed.

Crawl looks fantastic on Blu-ray, as the majority of first half of the film takes place under the house, yet the only thing muddy about the visuals is the actual mud the characters have to continuously crawl through. Yes, the movie always looks clean, as it was a great decision to have various spots on the side of the house where light could seep in. Not only does this allow for better lighting underneath the house, but it’s another hindrance to our protagonists, as these holes allow the water to fill up the crawl space even faster. The audio is also fantastic, with the score and sound effects blasting through the surround sound beautifully. The dialogue never battles either, coming through clear as day, as all work together harmoniously allowing the viewer to just focus on the action taking place on screen instead of constantly having to fiddle with remotes.

Special Features:

Intro to Alternate Opening/Alternate Opening – There’s a 25-second intro that’s a separate feature for some reason. The intro is brief and sees Director Alexandre Aja talk about how they created this motion comic intro that they didn’t have a chance to film so the viewers could enjoy it. Honestly, this is a blessing in disguise, because this 5-minute motion comic does have more alligator attacks, and it does have a lot more unforgiving violence; however, it also doesn’t fit with the narrative of the movie at all or why the alligators are doing what they’re doing, so I’m glad they didn’t have the chance to film it.

Beneath Crawl – This is the beast feature that you’ll want to strap in for. It’s a 28-minute feature that sees the cast and crew talk about filming the movie, while also piling on behind-the-scenes footage. We get to see the locations they built for the movie, why they chose to do most of it in a sound stage, the creation of the alligators, as well as plenty more. Definitely worth watching after you’ve seen the movie.

Deleted and Extended Scenes – There are a few scenes to be found here if they’re something you’re into. Together they run at just over six-minutes in length.

Category 5 Gators: The VFX of Crawl – This piece is just under 12-minutes in length and focuses purely on the creation of the alligators used in the film, how they filmed around the CGI gators that weren’t there, and how some of the on-screen violence was created with special effects.

Alligator Attacks – This is just one of those extras for the sake of adding an extra, as it’s about 90-seconds of the most violent alligator attacks in the movie cut together for your viewing pleasure.

Paramount Pictures Presents Crawl. Directed by: Alexandre Aja. Written by: Michael Rasmussen & Shawn Rasmussen. Starring: Kaya Scodelario, Barry Pepper, Ross Anderson, Jose Palma, Morfydd Clark. Running time: 87 Minutes. Rating: 14A. Released on Blu-ray: Oct. 15, 2019.

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