Warning – this article will contain spoilers for the 2019 movie Crawl.
With the summer movie season winding down, the window for seasonal thrillers is closing.
The summer is one of the times throughout the year that filmmakers try and terrify audiences. The formula is usually similar, with minor differences within the fine print.
A supernatural being, a lunatic slasher, an otherworldly lifeform – these are all the common horror tropes that people are used to. Crawl comes at fans with a different approach. It combines realistic fears of claustrophobic environments, natural disasters, and of course, wild animals.
It’s definitely not the first film of its kind to show how nature’s creatures can be terrifying. Just look at Jaws, Cujo, and The Birds. What makes this movie unique is the enclosed environment and limited cast size. This both adds to the panicked feel of the flick and helps audiences become more invested in the characters.
The film focuses largely on Haley Keller and her father, Dave Keller. Haley is a competitive swimmer; whose father coached her and gave her the nickname “Apex Predator” for her ability to find a way to win. Whether it was learning to swim faster or learning to hold her breath longer, she did whatever it took to come out on top.
Those skills make her a believable protagonist in this situation, which sees her journey into Florida in the midst of a massive hurricane to find her father. After his daughters moved out, he and his wife divorced, and it’s clear he misses being a family man.
As the basement they’re trapped in slowly fills with water, while massive alligators prowl around the area in search of live food, Haley and her father have to get creative and take risks if they hope to survive.
The film is also very graphic, but only where the scenes warrant it. There’s no gore for the sake of it – but when it comes time for one of these animals to latch on to their victim, the filmmakers make sure fans see the bone breaks, flesh punctures, and blood flow up close. It’s horror in every sense of the term, from the perspective of the damage done.
After a close call that almost sees him drown in the basement, Dave is rescued by Haley and the two make a break for the roof. Dave ends up losing an arm along the way, and Haley nearly gets drowned by an alligator, only to jam a burning emergency flare into the creature’s eye. That’s after she stabbed one in the eye earlier with a screwdriver, and emptied a handgun clip into another’s gut when it bit her arm. Never let it be said this heroine is soft.
The film concludes with the two (and their dog) successfully signaling for help on the roof. It’s a happy ending to a tense film. While it does have a simple premise and a limited cast, the film turns these into positives and made for one of the summer season’s most memorable horror flicks.