Wednesday, August 7, 2019

It Came From The Cineplex: Crawl

Crawl was written by Michael Rasmussen and Shawn Rasmussen. It was directed by Alexandre Aja.

As you might have guessed, the Rasmussens are brothers as well as working partners. They previously wrote Long Distance, The Ward, Dark Feed and The Inhabitants.

Aja (whose real name is Alexandre Jouan-Arcady— he derived his stage name from his initials) is a writer & director who pumps out grindhouse-esque horror films that are occasionally decent. He previously wrote P2 (a brutal little film that turned out better than it should have) and Maniac. He directed Piranha 3D, Horns and The 9th Life Of Louis Drax. He wrote AND directed Furia, High Tension (which I liked quite a bit), The Hills Have Eyes (the 2006 version) and Mirrors

If you're looking for a message or meaning in this film then move along— you'll find neither here. Crawl is an old school drive-in flick filled with pure action schlock. It's also a throwback to 1970s "Animals Attack" movies. 

And you know what? There's absolutely nothing wrong with that! It's actually kind of refreshing to see a movie with no agenda or pretense. Crawl knows exactly what it is and gleefully wallows in it.

So far Crawl's grossed $53 million worldwide against its modest $13 million budget. They likely didn't do a lot of marketing, so it's definitely made its money back and more. Could there be a Crawl 2: Even Crawlier on the horizon?


The Plot:
Haley Keller (played by Kaya Scodelario, of the Maze Runner movies) is a University Of Florida student and member of the swim team (Plot Point!). She just misses winning a meet, filling her with memories of losing as a child. She gets a call from her sister Beth, who's worried about their estranged father Dave (who used to be Haley's swim coach). It seems a Category 5 hurricane's heading for Florida, and Beth can't get a hold of Dave to warn him (um... wouldn't he already know about such a major event barreling toward him?). Beth asks Haley to check on Dave.

Haley drives to Dave's condo, but finds it empty except for his dog Sugar. She worries that he may have returned to their old family home in Coral Lake. She brings Sugar with her and heads for the old house, but is stopped by a roadblock. A cop named Wayne (who's a friend of the family and was once sweet on Beth) tells her he can't let her through. She pretends to turn around, but then sneaks through the roadblock.

Haley drives through the flooded streets and arrives at the old house. She finds evidence that Dave's living there, but no sign of him. Sugar begins barking at the basement door. Haley opens it and walks down into the damp, dark crawlspace under the house. She wades through the ankle-high water and finds Dave lying unconscious and severely wounded in a corner. His leg's broken and something's taken a large bite out of his shoulder.

As Haley drags him back toward the stairs, a massive alligator jump scares out of the water at her. In a panic, she drags Dave through a series of pipes, which the gator's too big to fit through. They're now both trapped in the basement with an alligator guarding the only exit.

Dave comes to and says he was attacked by the gator, who he believes entered through a storm drain that's connected to the crawl space (?). Haley notices the water's rising in the basement, and realizes they need to get out ASAP. She sees her phone lying on the floor and tries to reach it to call for help.

Before she can get to her phone, a second gator appears and crushes it with its foot. Gator #2 bites her on the leg, but lets go when she stabs it in the eye. Gator #1 tries to attack Dave, and he somehow manages to smash its head in. Haley and Dave are then trapped on opposite sides of the crawlspace, with Gator #2 between them.

Haley wraps up her leg wound, while Dave painfully (and graphically!) splints his broken leg. Haley hears a noise outside and looks through a window. She sees a trio of looters attempting to load an ATM into their boat. Haley finds a flashlight and tries to signal the looters through the window. One sees the flashing light and moves toward the house. His two friends are immediately attacked and torn apart by more gators. Haley sees them and tries to warn the looter, but he's killed as well.

Dave tells Haley there's a hatch in the ceiling that leads into the living room. She finds it and tries to shoulder it open, but it's blocked from above by a heavy dresser. Just then they hear another boat, and Haley sees Wayne motor up with a fellow cop. Wayne enters the house looking for Haley and Dave. Haley calls to him, telling him they're trapped in the basement with hungry gators, and not to come down.

Suddenly a gator lunges out of the basement opening and grabs Wayne. He tries to get away but is torn in half. His partner, still in the boat, is also attacked by a swarm of gators and pulled apart.

Haley makes it back to Dave while the gators are distracted. She decides this is the best time to air her dirty laundry, and says she blames herself for her parents' divorce, feeling Dave concentrated more on her swimming career than his marriage. He assures her that's not true, and urges her not to give up hope of getting out of the crawlspace.

Haley finds Wayne's gun, which fell into the crawlspace when he was attacked. As she picks it up, a gator lunges out of the water and clamps its jaws around her arm. She fires the pistol deep inside its mouth, and it eventually lets go. Miraculously, her willowy arm is still intact.

The basement's now almost completely filled with water, so Haley has no choice but to try and escape through the storm drain that's attached to the basement. She swims through it and exits outside the house, right in the middle of a nest of gator eggs— some of which begin hatching. 

She runs into the house and uses a crowbar to pry up the floorboards. She looks in and sees Dave's completely under water and has drowned. She pulls his lifeless body through the opening, performs CPR and amazingly manages to revive him. 

Haley, Dave and Sugar make their way outside, but see Haley's SUV's been washed away. They spot the looter's boat a few hundred feet away, and realize it's their only hope. Unfortunately there're several dozen gators swimming in the water between them and the boat. Dave says they'll be OK as long as they walk slowly and don't make any noise.

Right on cue, the eye of the hurricane passes over them, filling the world with a deadly silence. There's no way they can reach the boat without making any noise. 

Dave tells Haley she'll have to swim for the boat. Naturally she's filled with self-doubt and says she can't do it, but he goes into coach mode and assures her she can. She dives into the water and somehow out-swims a massive gator on her tail (WRONG!). She manages to make it into the boat a second before it the gator snaps its jaws behind her.

Haley pilots the boat over to Dave and Sugar, and they climb in. They hear a loud rumbling, and Dave says the nearby levee just broke. A small tidal wave rushes toward them and pushes the boat through the window of their house! D'oh! They're right back where they started!

Haley finds a police radio in the kitchen and calls for help. She hears a faint voice before the line goes dead, and isn't sure anyone actually heard her. Just then the gators rush into the now-flooded house. Dave grabs Sugar and they head for the second floor. Unfortunately a gator springs out of the water and grabs Dave by the arm. It twists its massive head, savagely ripping his arm off. 
Dave manages to get away and seems perfectly fine after this horrific injury. He and Sugar then head for the attic.

Meanwhile another gator chases Haley all around the house. She ends up luring it to the shower, where she traps it by shutting it behind the glass doors (???).

Haley's then attacked by another gator, which clamps down on her arm. It begins rolling over and over, attempting to drown her. As she spins around, she sees a dropped flare lying underwater on the floor. She takes time out for a montage of Dave coaching her at a swim meet, encouraging her to push herself to the limit. She comes back to the present and manages to grab the flare and jams it into the gator's eye. It lets her go and she swims outside.

Haley tries to climb up to the roof, but is attacked by yet another gator. Fortunately it's swept away by the strong floodwaters (but she isn't). She makes it to the roof and is reunited with Dave and Sugar.

Haley hears a chopper in the distance, and realizes her SOS went out after all. She lights a flare and waves it in the air as the copter appears in the distance.

• It's pointless to list plot holes and flubs in a movie like this, so this'll be short.

• There's a 2011 movie also titled Crawl, but it has nothing to do with alligators.

• Kayla Scodelario (who plays Haley) and Barry Pepper (who plays Dave) starred together in Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials and Maze Runner: The Death Cure.

• I've often wondered why Barry Pepper isn't a bigger name than he is. He works steadily and has been in some high profile films (such as Saving Private Ryan and The Green Mile), but he's rarely if ever the leading man. 

He had a starring role in 2000s Battlefield Earth. I wonder... did that cinematic turd permanently sour his career, and keep him from being as successful as he should have been?

• Few houses in Florida have basements, since most of the state's at or below sea level. If they did, events like the ones in the movie would be an everyday occurrence.

• At one point Haley and Dave finally escape from the basement and exit the house. Unfortunately Haley's car has floated off, and their only means of escape is a motorboat docked two hundred feet away. 

Scores of hungry gators swim fill the water between them and the boat, swimming perilously close to them. Dave assures Haley that they'll be perfectly safe as long as they're quiet and don't make any splashing sounds.

Apparently Dave's confused gators with T-Rexes. Unlike dinosaurs, an alligator's vision is NOT based on movement. In fact gators have very good eyesight, which allows them to spot their prey from a distance. And because their eyes are on the sides of their head, they have excellent peripheral vision.

Dave tells Haley she'll have to swim for the boat. As her former coach, he assures her she's faster than any old alligator and can make it with ease.

Once again, Dave proves he knows nothing about gators. The average full-grown alligator can reach speeds of up to 20 mph. Olympic Gold Medal winner Michael Phelps managed to swim about 6 mph. It's doubtful that Haley can swim faster than an Olympic athlete, so... chow down, boys!

• In the third act Dave's attacked by a gator, which viciously rips off his right arm. He reacts to this grievous injury with the same level of concern he'd have toward a hangnail. He does pause briefly to wrap a trash bag around his stump, but once that's done he's good to go!

This is nothing new, as movies routinely treat dismemberment as if it's no big deal. Victims experience little or no pain from their loss of limb, and will hold their good hand over the stump for a few seconds until the arteries magically seal themselves.

In the real world, a traumatic injury like this would have caused Dave to immediately pass out, go into shock and die from the massive amount of blood spurting freely from his wound.

• Haley's washed back into the house, where she's relentlessly chased by another gator. She hides in the upstairs shower, closing the glass doors tight. The gator follows, and smashes its head against the doors several times. Amazingly they don't shatter.

A few seconds later she manages to escape the shower and trap the gator inside it. It goes nuts, again throwing itself against the fragile glass doors. Once again they remain intact.

I dunno where Dave bought those gator-proof shower doors, but I want some! Apparently they're made of either adamantium or transparent aluminum!

Crawl is an ode to old school schlock, that's light on characterization but long on gritty, violent action. It's not terribly smart, but it's reasonably entertaining, which is more than I can say for the majority of films I've seen this year. I give it a B-.

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