Given the delightful resurgence of the shark attack movie over the last few years, it’s surprising that it’s taken this long for Florida’s own apex predator to make a proper comeback. Thank heavens for the unpredictable but dependably interesting French filmmaker Alexandre Aja, then, who brings his love of old school genre cinema and gift for high tension (sorry, pun intended) thrills to this daft but hugely entertaining horror.
When swim team scholarship student Haley Keller (Kaya Scodelario) heads into a category five hurricane to check on her stubborn dad Dave (Barry Pepper), she finds him unconscious in the crawl space under the house with an alligator for company. Suddenly, there’s a hefty hungry beast in between her and the exit and the water level is rising…
Aja’s films can often be wilfully idiosyncratic (just look at the one-two punch of Horns and The 9th Life Of Louis Drax) but he’s more than capable of wrapping an audience around his little finger. While the dialogue may clunk and there’s somehow always time for a bit more daddy-daughter bonding, Crawl’s claustrophobic thrills and steady stream of jump scares are right in his wheelhouse.
He’s also clearly having a lot of fun playing with the Friday night crowd, delivering some scares where you expect them for a gratifying tension release but subverting just as many. Similarly, those of us who enjoy a high body count with their creature feature will be more than satisfied by the number of hapless Floridians who show up for the chomping.
Full marks are also awarded for the excellent casting. Skins veteran Scodelario is a very strong lead, hitting every emotional note and utterly convincing in the action sequences, and she has a great rapport with Pepper, who gives excellent hangdog dad.
So while the odd line may prompt an unintentional laugh and you may occasionally wonder how on Earth our heroes are still moving around after that much gator punishment, this is a fast-paced, tense and bloody creature feature that delivers exactly what you want from it: a good time with gators.