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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Crawl is a "creature feature" horror/thriller about a woman (Kaya Scodelario) who's trying to rescue her father (Barry Pepper) from deadly alligators in a slowly flooding house. Expect lots of blood and gore: Characters are chewed to bits, limbs are ripped off, there are gory cuts and wounds, and you'll see dead, chewed-up bodies floating in the water. A gun is fired at an alligator, a woman is thrashed against the walls, and a character painfully sets his own broken leg. Language includes a few uses of "f--k" and "s--t," plus "son of a bitch" and "goddamn." Sex and alcohol aren't really issues. While this movie may not have much to say about the world, it's simple, compact, ingenious, and flat-out terrifying.
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What's the story?
In CRAWL, Florida university student Haley (Kaya Scodelario) is just finishing up swim practice when she gets a call from her sister, Beth (Morfydd Clark). A giant hurricane is approaching, and Beth can't get ahold of their father, Dave (Barry Pepper). Haley drives toward the storm, and, after some searching, finds her father in the lower crawlspace of their old family home. He's injured, and she quickly discovers that there are two hungry alligators loose in the house. With the flood waters rising, father and daughter must try everything they can to get out of the claustrophobic space. But even if they can make it, their troubles may just be beginning.
Is it any good?
Insidiously simple, compact, and clever, this killer alligator movie, complete with slowly rising floodwaters, is relentless and absolutely terrifying. It's a career best for director Alexandre Aja. Crawl may have little to say about the world -- except perhaps a hint of the dangers of climate change -- but what it does do, it does exceptionally well. Screenwriter brothers Michael and Shawn Rasmussen spend just a little time establishing Haley's swimming skills, her tattered relationship with her father, and the scope of the storm before letting go with wallop after wallop. Their basic idea of the claustrophobic crawlspace married with the attacking monsters is the stuff of classic thrillers, and the storytelling pace is positively brilliant. Gimmicks like a slowly submerging radio and a hand-cranked flashlight add immeasurably to the scenario.
Aja, whose fun remake of Piranha was a high point in a pretty uneven career so far, ought to stick to movies about water-based predators. His work here is so fluid that it's almost elegant. He even manages to avoid dumb jump scares -- the first alligator appearance on-screen is a masterful moment -- and uses the compact space with lucid clarity. He expertly ramps up the tightly coiled tension, revealing one surprise and shock and solution after another; even the rest breaks aren't entirely restful. Those alligators could be lurking anywhere, just below the surface of the rising water. In the end, Crawl feels like a white-knuckle roller coaster ride, and while viewers may leave smiling, they may also feel totally wiped out.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Crawl's violence. How much is shown, and how much is suggested? How did it affect you?
Is the movie scary? What's the appeal of horror movies?
What's the father-daughter relationship like in this movie? How does it compare to your own relationships?
What does the movie have to say (if anything) about the climate crisis?
- In theaters: July 12, 2019
- On DVD or streaming: October 15, 2019
- Cast: Kaya Scodelario, Barry Pepper, Ross Anderson
- Director: Alexandre Aja
- Studio: Paramount Pictures
- Genre: Thriller
- Topics: Wild Animals
- Character strengths: Perseverance
- Run time: 87 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: bloody creature violence, and brief language
- Last updated: May 3, 2020
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