CRAWL – speaking of movies about animals…

I was going to start this review by mentioning Jaws from 1975 to evoke our collective love of being terrified by wild beasts, be they land or sea based. But then of course you can go back decades earlier, to 1933’s King Kong, to find a similar story. Bottom line, the natural world has continued to provide countless opportunities to thrill and to scare: snakes on planes, anacondas in rivers, spiders everywhere, sharks, sharks in tornadoes, crocodiles, re-engineered dinosaurs – it’s a long list.

Along comes another entry in this canon, a film set in Florida called Crawl. It’s about a father and daughter caught in their house in the middle of a huge hurricane, which has flooded their neighbourhood, carrying a healthy number of hungry alligators with it.

Of its type, this is well done. Crawl carries a good dose of frights, some canny direction, and a believable script. And, it has a back story which means we have some reason to invest in its human characters, rather than just view them as potential snacks for our gator invaders. Our hero is the daughter Haley, played by Kaya Scodelario, and her dad is Dave, played by Barry Pepper. She loves her dad but the relationship has been troubled. He’s always been on her back to try harder, achieve more, and never give up, be it in her preferred sport of swimming or in studies. Dave’s separated from his wife and it’s hit him hard, making him even more withdrawn than he usually is. So the stage is set for the pair to negotiate their way through a flooding house-full of gators and through a re-connection of their relationship: maybe not the most original premise, but thanks to gritty performances and a script that largely avoids corny lines, this thriller grips (excuse the pun) and rarely lets go.

Another aspect I liked was the ending. So often thrillers do a lot of good work in the build up but deliver a coup de grace that is so improbable it spoils the overall feel of the film.  A classic example of this was Blake Lively’s shark movie The Shallows. I thought it was a classy film, genuinely thrilling and with an excellent performance from Lively. But right at the end, Lively’s character finishes off the shark in a way which seemed incredibly implausible. Possible, maybe, and dramatic, yes, but the ending turned the film’s direction from the grit of say, Spielberg’s Duel, to the outlandish adventure of Indiana Jones.

So, back to Crawl: in a way, and without spoiling it for you, the ending here is certainly dramatic, and maybe it is far fetched, but it fits with what we have seen before. Enough said. If Crawl is still at the cinema near you, and you need an antidote from cute Lions, it’s worth a look.

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