Crawl (2019) — A biting gator hurricane thriller

“Apex predator all day.”

Justin’s rating: Move to beautiful sunny Florida!

Justin’s review: Actually, there is no way I’ll ever be moving to Florida. I used to visit my grandparents near Tampa and learned more than enough about the insidious wildlife, horrible weather, and occupation by the nearest thing we have to genuine dinosaurs these days: alligators. Not a year goes by when I don’t read about some hapless jogger or little kid or cute puppy who gets snatched up by these terrifying beasts. But hey, the state doesn’t have to worry about snow days, so that’s a good trade-off, right?

Crawl is not exactly encouraging me to reevaluate my opinion of the place, either. In a tight and suspense-packed 87 minutes, this creature flick throws all of Florida’s worst traits together to create a hellish survival scenario for a father and daughter.

As a category five hurricane rumbles into the Sunshine State, college swimmer Haley (Kaya Scodelario) defies evacuation orders to go check on her father Dave (Barry Pepper), who isn’t picking up his phone for some reason. Haley finds him unconscious and bleeding in the crawl space under their old family home — and discovers a pair of very large and aggressive alligators who pin them in. Without much hope of rescue, Haley and Dave try to figure out a way out of their predicament as the waters in the crawl space keep rising and the gators keep coming.

All of the elements are there in Crawl to keep you tense and unhappy. Haley’s wind-up flashlight offers only moments of light (and jump scares), the crawl space is full of all sorts of disgusting unmentionables, and the rising water levels clearly give an increasing advantage to the visiting team. All of that dark water means you never quite know when the gators will appear, and before long I was wincing with empathic anticipation of the attacks to come.

The two certainly get battered, bit, and grossed out, but their like-father-like-daughter gritty determination and willingness to improvise gives them a fighting chance in this dire situation. Sure, sometimes the gators look a little cheesy (the darkness can only hide the CGI fakeness for so long) and it’s hard to buy into the idea that a whole group of gators would get this worked-up and single-minded during a massive storm, but it’s entertaining enough to keep those criticisms at bay.

Crawl came as a strong recommendation as one of the better movies lurking about on Amazon Prime that you may not have seen, and I’m glad I caught it. Sometimes you’re just in the mood for a spot of man vs. nature, and this does the trick.

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