My favorite thing about the summer blockbuster season doesn’t come until December, when I dimly recall all the mediocre movies I paid to watch when it was 100 degrees outside. “My Letterboxd tells me I saw Men in Black: International and Dark Phoenix and, uh, Shaft , but I have no memory of them.” Things are particularly dire this summer: franchise fatigue has set in, box office totals are bleak, and since May, there’s only been four above-average big-budget movies: Pokémon Detective Pikachu, John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum, Toy Story 4, and Spider-Man: Far From Home. When “Deadpool voices a yellow rat” is an example of a good movie, something might be wrong.
Then, out of the swamps, came the gators.
Directed by Alexandre Aja (High Tension, Piranha 3D) and written by Michael and Shawn Rasmussen, Crawl — a.k.a. the gator movie — is one of the most fun movie-going experiences I’ve had at the theater this summer. Don’t get me wrong, Crawl isn’t a misunderstood masterpiece (the 87 percent “Fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes is about right); it’s what you should expect from a movie that markets itself with “Rated R for Reptiles.” But after sitting through middle-of-the-road, quickly-forgotten “I just want to be in an air-conditioned room” fare like Godzilla: King of the Monsters and Yesterday, it felt like a revelation.
Here are a few reasons why.
1. If you have no idea what Crawl is about, you clearly haven’t seen the poster, which provides all the necessary information (“THEY WILL HUNT YOU”). But just in case, here’s the official plot summary: “When a massive hurricane hits her Florida hometown, Haley ignores evacuation orders to search for her missing father. Finding him gravely injured in the crawl space of their family home, the two become trapped by quickly encroaching floodwaters. As time runs out to escape the strengthening storm, Haley and her father discover that the rising water level is the least of their fears.”
There’s some important information that’s left out, like how Haley is a swimmer, but you get the idea: father and daughter are stuck in a gunky crawl space during a hurricane, gators come. Crawl doesn’t hop all over the world or even Florida (although it was filmed in Serbia); most of the action is contained to the house, where the danger is twofold: the rising water and the alligators. There’s a clear sense of geography (you’re able to mentally map escape routes along with the characters), which is vital for a horror movie. Crawl isn’t as successful at feeling trapped as, say, Don’t Breathe, but after watching the movie, I can say with full confidence: I would not like to be trapped in my crawl space (NOT a basement) during a hurricane with alligators, thank you very much.