In the age of cinematic cash-grabs, every original story, especially in the league of summer flicks, are more than welcome. Crawl ticked off every ingredient needed for a classic seasonal blockbuster, so imagine my excitement as I sat in my local theater, popcorn in hand, ready for suspense-driven, action-packed, mindless fun.
Much to my disappointment, what ensued was a bogged down, tired, and ultimately frustrating experience. Premise is almost always arbitrary in movie-making—isn’t everyone’s favorite movie that biopic about the creator(s) of Facebook?—so Crawl being set in a singular house was no problem. Its flaws lie in its shaky character work and weak execution that fails to create much needed pathos; in a movie with such a limited plot, focus should have been given to its emotional core.
Kaya Scodelario, perpetually stuck in teenage roles, plays college student Haley, who comes to her father’s house during a Level 5 hurricane to ensure his safety. She finds him half-conscious in the basement, and upon waking him up, learns that they are not alone.
There’s only so much you can do with alligators in a flooding basement, so the novelty wears off very quickly. Minor characters are introduced to give the audience hope and add an extra layer to the story, but the action sequences get very repetitive and director Alexandre Aja’s commitment to setting this entire film in this dreary basement hinders it from being the suspenseful ride it had the potential to be.
The film’s attempts at action are competent when compared to its attempts at pathos. With the floodwater rising, we learn that Haley is actually a swimming prodigy, and her father used to coach her. Near the third act, she finds catharsis as her years of ruthless training saves her from the sharp-toothed antagonists. It bordered on ridiculous—of course the daughter that gets stuck with the gritty dad is a swimmer—so emotion failed to translate, and the stakes felt even lower.
Unlike the raging flood at its center, this film felt shallow and static. Scodelario does her best with the very little she’s given, but in a film devoid of all the lovable characteristics of a summer blockbuster, it’s hard to not start rooting for the gators.