A daughter goes looking for her dad in a hurricane and finds a whole mess of alligators. Who knew this might be the best horror of the year?
Director Alexandre Aja became prominent with psychological horror thrillers like High Tension and self aware monster flicks like Piranha 3D. In Crawl, he flexes both those muscles to create a great little monster movie that's better than it needs to be. Haley (Kaya Scodelario) leaves her swimming practice in a hurricane to go look for her father (Barry Pepper). She finds him trapped under the house, hunted by several alligators. As the basement begins to flood, Haley and her dad battle the gator menace while watching looters and rescue workers get taken out by the way over the top pissed off reptiles. The story bounces back and forth between a tight thriller with a countdown clock (it's a big ass hurricane coming bringing all the water) and a grisly visceral violent ballet. Bites matter when they need to, showing off blood and breaking bones. Then when Haley needs to swim or her dad needs to fight back, all injuries are put aside. Make no mistake, getting bitten by a ten foot gator in this movie means a lot until it doesn't, and that's okay. Horror movies are made on less. For the most part, I believed that these characters would fight back with everything they had. That belief carried me much farther than my actual knowledge of how alligators and hurricanes behave. As Haley fights the alligators, she elicited several "fuck yeahs" and fist pumps from the audience I saw it with. She's strong, badass, and yet vulnerable enough to think that maybe she won't make it out okay. There's enough character failures here for any semblance of triumph to be great.
A no-duh double feature with last year's Hurricane Heist, Crawl creates enough atmosphere and self awareness to make its runtime fly by.