Crawl (2019): ‘New Horrors: Creature Features’ – A Film Review

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Alexandre Aja rose to his film with his gritty horror film Haute Tension, which is considered to be part of the ‘New French Extremity‘. Since then he has explored Horror films in American cinema with various different themes but always within Horror. Michael and Shawn Rasmussen seem to be on a very similar path and grouping all three together, Crawl makes a lot of sense. Horror is definitely on the rise and Crawl, possibly inspired by Alligator appearances in the wake of Hurricane Florence, makes for an interesting next step for all three, but is it for Horror?

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The Horror within Crawl

Crawl, like many of Alexandra Aja films, is a very well shot film. Beautifully composing the space in a way that is pleasing to look at and flows narratively – but is also disorientating when it needs to up the tension. Visually, tropes of the film are established to a pay off later, that still manages an effective jump-scare when the tension needs to spike. There are no false jump-scares and this helps the film to be all the more powerful at building tension. Unfortunately, many sideline characters are too disposable but this does allow the film to be more gruesome – much like other Alexandra Aja films. This still builds an effective piece of horror cinema, keeping an impending sense of building danger, as the effectively built environments escalate and make matters more difficult for the central characters.

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The Central and Core Strength

All of this would fail if it wasn’t for the wonderful performances by Kaya Scodelario and Barry Pepper. Their emotive, physical and energetic performances manages to keep the narrative with an emotional core, whilst it helps the desperation of the characters as they face the Horror. You feel their struggles for survival and their relationship. This is so important to carry the tension of each scene. It is also important to build audience attachment and therefore the sense of danger that they are in. Though there is a sense of danger, time and distance from others that builds the sense of hope and increases tension, this would be nothing without the increasing attachment to these characters. This is also carried very well in The Shallows, a very similar but not quite the same film.

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Sometimes, it is important to just get the basics down and do them well, Crawl is this. It is an effective piece of Horror/Survival cinema and it does so scene to scene, building to the overall narrative. It does so because of its simplicity and not in spite of it. The effectiveness of the characters and their performances is key to the success of a film expertly built around them. This is what makes Crawl one of the best pieces of Horror to come out this year.

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During a hurricane, Haley (Kaya Scodelario) sets out to find her dad (Barry Pepper) within a damaged house in the midst of the storm, meanwhile Alligators have broken loose nearby.




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A Note on My Reviews

Please read ‘On Reviews‘ for a guide to how I write film reviews. Any spoilers are appropriately marked and, though I personally prefer to know little about a film before seeing it, there is a synopsis below the review for any who wish to see one.


Films Mentioned

Crawl (d. Alexandre Aja France/Serbia/USA 2019)

Haute Tension (d. Alexandre Aja France/Italy/Romania 2003)

The Shallows (d. Jaume Collet-Serra USA 2016)


Further Reading

Official Site

Alexandra Aja and Kaya Scodelario Interview

Sam Raimi Interview

Cast & Crew Interview

Behind the Scenes

I Need My Phone

Some Creature Features

Crawl Kill Count (Spoilers)


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Hellboy (2019): ‘Bringing Back the Dead Red Boy’ – A Film Review


This was an analytical review of….


Crawl (d. Alexandre Aja France/Serbia/USA 2019)

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