Release Date(s)2019 (October 15, 2019)
Studio(s)Raimi Productions/Fire Axe Pictures (Paramount Pictures Home Entertainment)
- Film/Program Grade: D+
- Video Grade: A+
- Audio Grade: A
- Extras Grade: C-
When a Category 5 hurricane menaces the state of Florida—but more importantly, Haley’s estranged father—she takes it upon herself to drive there against the warnings of the police. Threatened by heavy rain, wind, debris, and rising flood waters, she eventually finds him in the crawlspace of an old house where he is attempting to stave off attacks from two large alligators that have escaped from swamps nearby. It’s now a struggle as the pair attempt to signal for help and find a way out of the crawlspace before the snapping predators feast on them for dinner.
Released in 2019, Crawl was a return of sorts for director Alexandre Aja, who had previously helmed the horror films High Tension, The Hills Have Eyes, and Piranha 3D. The film didn’t light up the box office on its initial release, but it did manage to bring in 91 million worldwide on a 12 million dollar budget. It also caught the attention of Quentin Tarantino who later declared it one of his favorite films of 2019. And with a good amount of buzz, it has managed to find a minor audience that continues to grow now that it’s made its way to video and streaming.
First and foremost, this isn’t a Jaws type of film where the monster is kept in the shadows to build a sense of dread. Instead, it’s a schlock horror movie that wants to show its monster ripping people apart and, as a consequence, sacrifices terror for gory spectacle. The idea of trying to survive alligator attacks during a hurricane is certainly a fresh idea, but the execution of it in certain areas is subpar. Besides the multitude of totally unbelievable events and elements (all chalked up to schlock), the visual effects are also a mixed bag. Some involving the alligators themselves are pretty good, depending upon how they’re lit, while others are generally awful—awful meaning that they look almost cartoonish at times.
Not to be overlooked are the performances. Kaya Scodelario really goes for it, scuttling around on her hands and knees for the majority of the film. However, the dynamic between her and Barry Pepper who portrays her father is movie-of-the-week territory at best. There’s a sense of division between the two that’s never really explored, and what is present feels out of place at times when it arises—usually after an alligator attack or two. As such, both actors feel stilted and unrelatable on an emotional level.
What Crawl manages to do well enough is convey a sense of isolation within a closed space where the water is rising, giving the plot a ticking clock element, as well as a claustrophobic bent. One sequence that doesn’t involve the lead characters wherein the alligators attack their prey unseen is the most effective moment in terms of real suspense. Other attacks are in your face and not at all subtle comparatively. In essence, Crawl can be enjoyed for its less than stellar sensibilities, but for others, it may come across as an ineffective shocker—both sides of which are dependent upon personal taste. And at a lean 87 minutes, it’s no burdensome task.
Crawl slithers onto Blu-ray from Paramount Pictures in its intended 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Shot digitally, it’s a virtually perfect presentation of the film that leaves no room for complaint. Every last rain-soaked, slime-covered, bloody detail is on full display with a multitude of textures on both objects and people. The color palette leans to slightly monochromatic, but skin tones are natural and black levels are inky deep without any obvious crush. Brightness and contrast levels are ideal and there are no obvious encode issues to be seen.
The same goes for the audio, the main option of which is English 7.1 DTS-HD. It’s a dominant sonic experience with activity happening all around the sound stage. Dialogue is mostly clear and discernable, though a tad lost in a couple of more exhilarating and busy moments, while the score is boisterous in a few areas. Sound effects, specifically those utilizing the low end, are frequent and powerful. From the gusting winds and driving rain to the pitter patter of water droplets, it offers a vast range of aural activity that’s quite enveloping. Other audio options include an English Descriptive track, as well as Spanish (Latin American), French (Canadian), Japanese, Portuguese (Brazilian), and Thai 5.1 Dolby Digital tracks. Subtitle options include English, English SDH, Malaysian, Cantonese, Spanish (Latin American), French (Canadian), Hindi, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, Portuguese (Brazilian), and Thai.
This release also includes a few extras, all featured in HD:
- Intro to Alternate Opening with Director Alexandre Aja (0:25)
- Alternate Opening (4:49)
- Deleted and Extended Scenes (3 in all – 6:03)
- Beneath Crawl (28:05)
- Category 5 Gators: The VFX of Crawl (11:37)
- Alligator Attacks (01:32)
The Alternate Opening is a motion comic of a family attempting to escape Florida flood waters and getting away from the alligators. Beneath Crawl and Category 5 are decent featurettes about the making of the film with the cast and crew, including Alexandre Aja, producer Sam Raimi, screenwriters Shawn Rasmussen and Michael Rasmussen, and actors Barry Pepper and Kara Scodelario. Alligator Attacks is a compilation of all of the moments of alligator carnage. Also included in the package is a DVD copy of the film and a Digital Code on a paper insert.
Crawl is certainly the kind of crowd pleaser that will mostly satisfy only one kind of crowd. It’s definitely not sophisticated, nor does it have a deeper meaning, but if you enjoy surface level cheese, it’s bound to have you licking your chops.
– Tim Salmons