They were here first
While struggling to save her father during a Category 5 hurricane, a young woman finds herself trapped inside a flooding house and fighting for her life against Florida’s most savage and feared predators.
I have seen a lot of horror movies (1,103 by my count, at the time of this writing). Of those, Crawl is one of the better ones I have come across. Definitely within the top 10% of everything I have slogged through over the years. Monster movies are my favorite sub-genre of horror and nothing beats the simplicity of a large, hungry animal. A primal fight of man vs. nature echoing what our ancestors did before humanity rose to the top of the food chain. Moreover, an event like an alligator attack is something that could really happen. Any horror movie featuring a plausible real-world event is always scarier for it.
The plot of this film is very simple: a woman goes to check on her father as a hurricane comes in only for the two to be trapped in the crawlspace under the family home by hungry gators. While the alligators are the obvious, imminent threat, the floodwaters are also rising. The clocking is ticking as the pair tries to figure out a way past these prehistoric monsters before drowning. This all leads to a great sense of suspense that was well crafted into a story of survival.
The daughter, Haley (Kaya Scodelario) and her father, Dave (Barry Pepper), are somewhat estranged at the start of the film. This happens a lot in monster movies like Crawl, with the survival event forcing the characters to make peace. While there are a few other characters in the film, they only appear in a scene or two. Mostly as gator bait. The real focus here is on the relationship between a daughter and her father (and their dog, Sugar [Cso-Cso]). It is very rare to see this level of acting in a Creature Feature, let alone with a great story.
That being said, this is a horror movie. Audiences should go in with a sense of disbelief. The key factor here is the characters wading through floodwaters with open wounds. Disease is as much of a real threat as floodwaters and alligators. The gators themselves, however, are portrayed very accurately. Crawl takes place in Florida, which is where most recorded fatal alligator attacks in the US have occurred. Alligators are one of the few animals that can and will hunt humans. These ambush predators are large, powerful, and in their element in the water. Putting people in the water, out of our own element, always makes for a scarier monster movie. While Crawl was not perfect, it is one of the best suspense/thrillers to hit theaters in the last decade.