‘Crawl’ swallows audiences with horrid writing, pacing

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Photo Credit: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

For a film all about alligators, this sure lacks bite.

“Crawl” is a horror film directed by Alexandre Aja that follows competitive swimmer Haley (Kaya Scodelario) and her father (Barry Pepper) as they try to escape a gator-infested crawl space in the middle of a hurricane. Unfortunately, “Crawl” suffers under the weight of its horrid writing and invincible characters. 

Kaya Scodelario pioneers the film with her depiction of Haley. It seems as if Scodelario truly puts out her best effort, but the horrendous script casts her in a bad light. She aggressively navigates the intense water scenes and pushes through horrid exposition dialogue. In terms of physical capability, she definitely nails the part. 

Barry Pepper complements Scodelerio with his performance as Haley’s father. He gives a pretty run-of-the-mill performance and boringly hits all of the distant dad movie tropes. Pepper doesn’t seem to take into account the dire situation his character is in when delivering lines. After being brutally mauled and injured, he has no problem sitting up straight and clearly delivering exposition. It’s extremely distracting and takes the audience out of tense situations. 

If there’s anything positive to say about “Crawl,” it’s that it features some pretty gnarly kills. A ton of unsuspecting victims perish in ridiculously morbid ways. These scenes will surely resonate with longtime fans of the genre as the scenes often pay homage to classic films such as “Jaws.”

The cinematography is relatively effective as well. The setting of the film is appropriately menacing with dark tones, murky water and minimal light sources. 

Unfortunately “Crawl” is short on redeeming qualities. What could’ve been a purposely ridiculous blast of a horror film results in a tonally inconsistent mess. The writing couldn’t have been less on the nose, with characters stopping during tense scenes to forcefully bring back “themes” presented in the film. 

Within the first few minutes, Haley’s father calls a young version of Haley an “apex predator,” which couldn’t be more cringe-worthy given that the film is about surviving an alligator attack.

In another instance, Haley is courageously told by her father to power through and keep swimming in a completely forced callback to the days when her dad coached her in the competitive sport. 

It seems as if the writers mapped out the action before thinking about actual character development, thus all of these moments seem awkwardly stuck in.

On top of the horrid writing, “Crawl” has difficulty establishing true danger and tension despite its terrifying premise. Moments where minor characters die are certainly effective, yet when it comes to the main characters, the gators’ teeth seem to be made of rubber. 

The two protagonists are bitten and slammed all over the place on multiple occasions, but they still triumph scene after scene with minimal signs of true injury. Every horror film usually requires some suspension of disbelief, but when main characters seem invincible from true injury, the danger of the villain feels significantly tame. 

“Crawl” is an extremely weak film that fails on almost all notable fronts. This could’ve been a fun horror film with a neat theme, yet its poor writing sticks out like a sore thumb. 

2 out of 5 stars