If you take a hurricane, and add alligators — actually, that’s it, basically. Say hello to “Crawl,” a movie that makes a bad situation even more miserable.
Our heroine, Haley (Kaya Scodelario), is a college swimming champ, curious about why her dad doesn’t return her messages. It would be foolish to drive to his house a couple of hours away, because a major hurricane is slamming the Florida coast, and the old homestead is right in the path of the storm.
So she drives there, and — for reasons too complicated to go into — finds herself stuck in the crawlspace underneath the house. Her dad (Barry Pepper) is down there, with a broken leg and some nasty-looking alligator bites.
The movie’s big on detailing its characters’ wounds; all the compound fractures and easily chomped-off limbs come to vivid life. If this much loving attention had been paid to writing the dialogue, we might have something here.
Anyway, the crawlspace is filling up with water, and two giant gators have settled in between the humans and the stairs leading up to the main floor. This will require some ingenuity, and also the ability to hold one’s breath for a really, really long time. Did we mention Haley is a swimmer?
The script by Michael and Shawn Rasmussen provides some gator-bait in the form of passersby, just so we’re not stuck in the dank basement the whole time. The supporting victims are sadistically dispatched, mere distractions from the main business of father-daughter bonding.
Given how basic the situation is, “Crawl” works awfully hard to provide backstory for the family dynamic: the overbearing father pushing his child to excel, the daughter blaming herself for her parents’ divorce.
By the time the levee breaks and the waters rise into the other floors of the house, the movie is like a Freudian nightmare. The familiar spaces of this once-happy, now-broken home fill with garbage and snapping gators, as poor Haley tries to survive her sentimental journeys through the bathroom and her childhood bedroom.
At least I think director Alexandre Aja is pushing this metaphor; there isn’t much else to concentrate on, except for the special effects and the grouchy reptiles. The movie’s missing that extra dash of style that can boost a monster movie onto the next level.
Scodelario, who made a pleasing impression in the most recent “Pirates of the Caribbean” product, is a sturdy, wide-eyed heroine. She does almost as much tortured grunting as tough guy Barry Pepper, who powers through every bodily trauma imaginable during the film’s no-nonsense 87-minute running time. But he survived playing the lead in “Battlefield Earth,” so no surprises there.
“Crawl” (2 stars)
A hurricane strikes a Florida home, trapping a woman (Kaya Scodelario) and her wounded father (Barry Pepper) in the crawlspace. There are alligators, too — big alligators. Director Alexandre Aja takes a sadistic turn through the situation, but doesn’t have the dash of style that might make this one a cut above average.
Rating: R, for violence, language
Showing: Alderwood, Alderwood Mall, Cinebarre Mountlake Terrace, Everett Stadium, Galaxy Monroe, Marysville, Meridian, Pacific Place, Seattle 10, Thornton Place Stadium, Woodinville, Cascade Mall