September Issue 2019

By | Cinema | Published 4 weeks ago

To say that director Alexandre Aja’s film Crawl is a gut-wrencher is putting it mildly. The thriller is full of white-knuckle tension that will push you to the edge of your seats. This survival horror-drama is in the vein of The Shallows or The Meg that make you clench your fists in desperate hope for the protagonists to survive.

During a swimming meet, University of Florida champion swimmer, Haley Keller (Kaya Scodelario), receives a frantic phone call from her sister in Boston. A Category 5 hurricane is headed in the direction of their parents’ home in Florida and their father, Dave Keller (Barry Pepper), has not returned any of her calls – she fears something may have happened to him.    

Despite being estranged from her father in recent months, Haley ignores state-wide pleas for evacuation and immediately undertakes a two-hour drive through increasing bad weather to reach their small Florida hometown. She tracks down her missing father in their old family house, deep in swamp country. By the time she arrives, the entire town is deserted. After a frantic search around the house, she heads for the basement. In the semi-darkness, she crawls through all sorts of gunk to find her father lying unconscious in a shallow crawl space with gruesome injuries on his shoulder and leg.

She tries to drag him out and just before reaching the stairs, Haley is confronted by a massive adult alligator heading straight for them. She manages to drag her father away in time into a crawl space that’s walled off by several large horizontal pipes, blocking the jaw-snapping gator from getting through. However, it has effectively blocked their exit as well. The safest option would be to remain there and ride out the storm, but the crawl space is turning into an underground deathtrap as water starts flooding in. Outside, the hurricane edges closer unleashing treacherous winds and rain, and the vehicles outside start to float and swirl. Things are about to get a whole lot worse, when they realise there is another killer gator in the basement.

The fact that Haley is a competitive swimmer, trained and coached by her father to be the best, may give them the only chance to survive their worst nightmare. The duo realise the gators must have slithered through the drain pipes when the house fell into disrepair. Gators cannot hear well above water and are slower on land; however, when submerged in murky waters, it’s another matter. The extreme circumstances also enable the father-daughter relationship to heal. They bond as they try to figure how to avoid drowning and outsmart the 15-foot carnivores.

With great skill, this nature vs man thriller maintains a relentless sense of terror in a small-scale setting. The director knows exactly how to wring spine-chilling mileage out of man’s primal fear of being attacked at any time by an apex predator that could be lurking anywhere. A warning to viewers: the content is violent, especially the bone-crunching sequences.

This tightly packed film is sure to please those who enjoy a good adrenaline rush. As far as plausibility is concerned, it may be closer to reality than Lake Placid. After the torrential rains flooded Karachi last month, seven adult crocodiles escaped from a farmhouse in Steel Town. Five were, thankfully, captured, but two are still at large.

The writer is a documentary filmmaker and activist. She is working with the Newsline as editorial assistant.