Cast: Kaya Scodelario, Barry Pepper

Director: Alexandre Aja

If, like me, you watched with a combination of fear and fascination those videos circulating on WhatsApp of alligators that strayed into residential areas of Vadodara and Karnataka during recent flooding, then you might be the best audience for Crawl. This slickly made ‘creature feature’ is a man vs beast survival story that offers jump scares and cheap thrills to make up for its non-existent plot.

Despite warnings to stay indoors during a brutal Florida hurricane, university student and former competitive swimmer Hayley sneaks her way into the storm’s path to check in on her father, who lives alone at the other end of town and isn’t responding to any of her messages. She finds him bruised and unconscious in the cramped basement below their old family home, and pretty soon she’s trapped there with him and a big scary alligator, even as the house begins to flood.

It’s a pretty basic premise but one that yields some genuinely thrilling moments. Father and daughter struggle to keep themselves safe from an increasing number of threats. It turns out there isn’t just one set of sharp teeth out there, there are more. Good thing there’s always a handful of disposable background characters to be made a meal of.

Piranha 3D director Alexandre Aja uses tiny spaces, malfunctioning essentials like phones and torches, and his imagination to deliver scenarios of nail-biting tension. In one scene Hayley is trapped inside the bathtub stall as the critter splashes around in the bathroom outside. In another she must tiptoe across the kitchen counter even as the room is rapidly flooding, unsure what danger lurks in the water.

The film moves briskly, clocking in at a crisp 90 minutes, but loses some steam when father and daughter decide to address unresolved issues from the past. It’s hardly the time or place for emotional unburdening, and even the father’s pep talks feel entirely predictable.

To be fair the film works despite these minor hiccups. Kaya Scodelario who plays Hayley, has a Sigourney Weaver-like tough chick vibe, and the digitally realised alligators are creepily realistic. What unfolds is trashy fun – no more, no less. If you’re in the mood for guilty pleasure, Crawl is not a bad way to spend an evening. I’m going with three out of five. 

Rating: 3 / 5