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See Ya Later, Alligator

"Crawl" is a classic throwback to "Jaws"

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I'm a grown-ass man. Yes, I spend too much money on comic books, physical media and having strangers cook me food, but I still feel like I'm more of a grown-up than I was, like, three to five years ago. I've seen upward of a thousand movies in theaters over the years—yet, amazingly, I had a "first-ever" moment while watching the new creature feature, "Crawl."

So, I know it looks like she's in trouble, but all I really care about is whether the dog survives. - PHOTO COURTESY OF SONY
  • Photo courtesy of Sony
  • So, I know it looks like she's in trouble, but all I really care about is whether the dog survives.

The setup is simple. Haley Keller is a student athlete on a swimming scholarship at the University of Florida. When a Category 5 hurricane is about to make landfall and Haley can't get ahold of her estranged father, Dave, she heads to her childhood home to see if she can find him before everything hits the fan.

She eventually finds him with a broken leg and a giant bite taken out of his shoulder in the crawlspace of the old house. For a nonstop grueling 90-minutes, Haley and Dave have to survive in a crawlspace that's quickly filling with two things: water and gators. That's it. That's the movie.

So, back to my first-ever moment. Fifteen minutes into the movie there's a big-ass alligator between Haley and the stairs leading out of the crawlspace. Her idea is to creep slowly around the side of the gator while poking it with a stick, while she uses her athletic speed to juke past it and get up the stairs. Right as she turns to move past it, THERE'S A SECOND ALLIGATOR STANDING THERE, hissing and whatnot.

Sitting there in the nice, air-conditioned theater, like a child seeing "Jurassic Park" for the first time, I screamed "HOLY SHIT!" as loud as I could. I didn't mean to or want to, but the words were ripped out of me without giving me any choice in the matter. I certainly did not sound like a grown man.

The thing that makes "Crawl" work so well is that Haley and Dave are genuinely likable, well-drawn characters. Their estrangement is realistic and I wanted them to survive so they could fix their relationship. Also, aside from Haley and Dave, the only other character stuck in the nightmare known as Florida is the family dog, Sugar. I was so paranoid that Sugar was about to become a gator snack that my fingers left dents in my armrest.

Right now, in a horror environment where "elevated" horror movies including "Midsommar," "Hereditary" and "The Witch" can dominate the multiplex, it's nice to see an unpretentious horror movie that just wants to scare the crap out of you using every trick in the book. "Crawl" obviously isn't going to end up being the best film of the year, but it's easily the most fun I've had in the theater in quite some time.

I might be a grown-ass man, but I like my pleasures simple. Alligator movies, shark movies and monster movies have held a place in my heart since "Jaws," and if I have to sacrifice that love in order to grow up, then consider my development permanently arrested..

Crawl
Dir. Alexandre Aja
Grade: A-
Old Mill Stadium 16 & IMAX


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