Hurricanes, alligators, and the human condition converge on a Florida locale.
In the midst of the summer blockbuster season, which is choked with massive tentpole blockbusters, some studios hope for a counter-programming opportunity and try to tempt audiences with some differing options. Paramount has attempted to earn some extra cash by releasing the thriller “Crawl” this weekend between a couple of major releases.
A hybrid of a disaster film and a creature horror feature, the plot revolves around a hurricane setting its sights on the west coast of Florida, and as if a category-5 tempest was not perilous enough some residents who become trapped in the storm zone find their home beset by a swarm of vicious alligators. Tension arrives with dual threats.
Directed by horror vet Alexander Aja and produced by Sam Raimi this is a low budget affair (shot for under $20 million) that has plenty of logical and geographical shortcomings, but it still manages to be a compelling ride that delivers its share of thrills and fun. This is not a film to study ardently, but one to allow to perform for you.
The story surrounds around Haley, a college student who is on the University of Florida swim team — home of the Florida Gators! With the storm approaching she drives out to look for her father (Barry Pepper, the closest to a star in this), who has not responded to repeated calls. She ventures to their childhood home to discover him wounded and trapped deep in the crawlspace (ahem) of the basement (double ahem.) He is wounded by a leg bite he received from a large alligator, one of a number occupying their space.
As the storm rolls in the basement begins flooding and the numerous attempts at getting help, and getting out, comprise the content. The budget restrictions are evident — a slim cast, a mostly solitary interior location — but Aja does a respectable job in delivering a sufficient amount of tension and maintaining interest. He makes the limits of the setting a claustrophobic element, a challenge for the besieged characters.
As a Florida resident, I needed to suspend much of my local knowledge. One major issue is that the state rests at sea level and thus any significant digging gets you into the water table. This means basements are non-existent on the peninsula. This became a curiosity, as the first act takes place primarily in the “basement” of the home. But it is the type of ride that you need to bypass these type of elements.
“Crawl” offers up enough of a diversion from the formulaic studio offerings. If you are primed for a thriller as an alternative you can be entertained. This kind of movie does not require heavy cerebral lifting, so you can turn off the mental analysis and delve into the popcorn. If you manage that there is some fun to be had in this genre release.