You probably aren’t expecting much from “Crawl,” a low-budget killer gator thriller from director Alexandre Aja. It’s a good thing that you aren’t, because this movie is stuck in a cinematic purgatory between pure camp and too-sincere creature feature. It lands somewhere in the middle, but it would be so much better if it didn’t.
A massive hurricane is hours away from hitting Florida, and superstar college swimmer Haley (Kaya Scodelario) ignores evacuation orders to search for her missing dad (Barry Pepper). She finds him gravely injured in the crawl space of their former family home, where the two soon become trapped in the rising floodwaters. Time starts to run out as the water beings to fill the house, but there’s something sinister lurking beneath the surface (hint: it’s a bunch of killer alligators).
The movie is appropriately bloody with a good amount of horror-style gore. It’s not too over the top in that department, but this isn’t a good choice for the squeamish. Most of the story doesn’t make much sense, and it takes too long to build up to what everyone comes to see when they buy a ticket: alligators biting off arms and tearing through flesh and ripping humans apart with their powerful jaws. There’s plenty of that, but not until the back half of the film.
There is a surprising amount of suspense as the house slowly fills with water and there’s a lot of swimming away from giant alligators. It’s an achievement when you think about it, considering the special effects and actors are left to carry the weight of the film. Not that there’s a ton of talent in the acting department, of course. The performances are either laughable (Pepper) or sincere in a way that makes you feel bad the actor gave it her all (Scodelario). The dialogue has a few campy, quotable moments like when one man shouts “let’s beat those pea-brained lizard shits.” If you aren’t laughing out loud at that, then I don’t know what’s wrong with you.
This isn’t a good movie, and it feels like a cheap “Jaws” rip-off with reptiles instead of sharks. It’s thoroughly forgettable and disposable entertainment that only hardcore fans of the genre may enjoy if everything else is sold out at the Cineplex.