Man versus nature is a recurring theme in film and literature, often very serious with greater themes at play. That is not the case with Crawl. And I mean that in the best way possible!
A category five hurricane is bearing down on Florida, and adult daughters can’t reach their dad, so one intrepid woman heads into the evacuation zone to find the old man. Now in old school horror films, the main characters make bad decisions that are obviously bad. That’s not the case with storytelling here. The daughter and dad don’t make bad decisions, they make informed yet dangerous decisions. So that helps hold the movie together from a plot standpoint.
See Ya Sooner Than Later, Alligator
The dad, played by Barry Pepper, is off the grid, so dutiful daughter Haley, played by Kaya Scodelario, goes to look for him, and finds him at the house he’s supposed to be selling as part of his divorce. On her drive in, we see less-than-subtle hints of what’s to come, like a billboard advertising an alligator habitat.
I get it, this natural disaster seeks to restore the natural balance. But that’s fine.
Once Haley gets to the house with Dad’s dog (who we’re sure is gonna be gator bait), she finds the upstairs abandoned. But like in all good horror movies, there’s an open door to a dark crawlspace (Florida doesn’t have basements due to the water table). Knowing that alligators await doesn’t spoil the moment, it enhances it! Once she’s down there she finds dad wounded and unconscious, and gators find her!
Now the fun begins. They have to stay out of reach of the gators, while racing to escape a quickly flooding crawlspace. The danger is swarming, cuz there’s not just one roaming reptile. There’s a congregation of gators, and they’re congregating all around.
They try to signal people looting the convenience store next door. Oops, the looters are eaten!
Haley tries to get the phone she dropped outside the gator-safe zone. It’s crushed by gator paw!
Deputies come to the rescue. Gators come to dinner!
A gambit to get to a lifeboat has waves push them right back to where they were.
But you want the looters to get eaten, the phone to be crushed, the deputies to be a second course and for Dad and Haley to end up back amongst the predators. I found myself laughing and cheering for it. This type of movie is fun because it revels in absurdity.
I primarily cocktail in south Florida. I used to see gators swim by in the river past my old condo (I was warned when I moved in not to let small pets roam freely, for their own safety!). I’ve been through several hurricanes including Katrina and Wilma in 2005 and Irma in 2017 (Irmageddon!) So the worst part was a little bit of Hurricane PTSD.
I also picked out several things that would never happen, like lights still being on at the convenience store, deputies on searches and helicopters flying during the worst part of the storm. But I can easily forgive all those things (the director’s probably never been in one of those monsters) for the true campiness of the experience.
Plus there was the obligatory daddy-daughter discussions of what’s driven them apart and the reconciliation in the face of death by gator. Ironically, they were estranged over her competitive swimming, a skill which came in handy during their ordeal. Cheesy? Yes. But it fits in with the film and genre.
I’m not saying go out and drop $15 bucks for a night out. But this is definitely one to rent with friends and a well stocked bar.
Also, it should be noted, not all alligators are bad. Here’s one you can swim with!
The Critic’s Cocktail Recommendation
A Hurricane, obviously. Make a bunch and call it a Hurricane Party, even if (hopefully) the Atlantic is clear.