Secret screenings are a bit of a crap shoot to be honest. I struck lucky earlier this month when I attended one that ended up being Blinded By the Light, which I really enjoyed, so I took the plunge and booked another one.
It started with disappointment, unfortunately, as I really wanted the screening to be of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, for which I am beyond excited for, but alas, it was not to be.
However, I was surprised by the last entry, so when the screen revealed that our cinematic treasure would be Crawl, a creature feature produced by Sam Raimi, I gritted my teeth and promised myself to give it a fair chance.
A category 5 hurricane is tearing through the state of Florida, and Haley (Kaya Scodelario) heads to her father’s house, after he fails to answer telephone calls. There she finds her father injured in a crawl space infested with alligators…
After the disappointment of the film not being QT’s latest offering had died down, and I began to sat back and assess the film in its own merits, and about halfway through I was surprised to find myself teetering on the edge of my seat.
The first thing I can say about the film is it really doesn’t waste a second getting to the crux of the issue, the film opens and bam! There’s a hurricane, your dad’s not answering his phone, better go to his house sharpish, and we establish the plot and threat within 20 minutes. Some films would have swanned about the place throwing subtext at your face, but Crawl doesn’t have time for that, it wants to get straight to the alligators.
Much like A Quiet Place (which this film reminded me of on a few occasions) the shorter runtime and brisk pace means that you’re afforded little time to dwell on some of the phenomenally stupid decisions the characters make so this films plot is possible.
As much as it drew me in eventually, it is a clear example of what has been termed an ‘idiot plot’ a plot that only happens because everyone in it is an idiot. However, as I said a few sentences ago, we are given very little time to dwell on this, as the plot moves quickly into the next thing it has lined up, which isn’t necessarily a point in the film’s favour, I admit, but the actions of the characters can be at least somewhat justified.
Speaking of the characters, that’s one area where Crawl falls short. The characters are fine, but nothing special. Haley has the usual suite of daddy issues which will no doubt crop up while she’s trying to rescue him, and dad’s a bit of a prat, because aren’t they all?
Even though I compared it earlier to A Quiet Place, this is one of the areas where it differs, as that film had characters with likeable personalities and sympathetic struggles, whereas this one has shallow characters, which is ironic given the amount of time they spend underwater.
Other than that though, it’s a very well put together little film, with an atmosphere dripping in suspense, while also being light on the jump-scares, which suits me, as I’ve said before; jump scares are the elevator music of horror, so them being kept largely to the background and replaced by a creeping terror is a nice positive.
I also like the visual palate the director has gone for, not that there’s much variety you can inject into a flooded basement, but the dim colours and low lighting really add to the sense of dread.
In conclusion then, an interesting premise well executed, but would have benefitted from better characters, when you make a film with very few characters, you have to make sure those characters are interesting enough to carry the quieter moments, and Haley and her dad really aren’t. But that doesn’t take away from the well-build atmosphere and creative direction that make Crawl a very enjoyable watch.