At a time when most mainstream genre films or TV shows are moving in the complete wrong direction by being overly complicated, artificially extended, or abusively referential - but lacking the means of their proclaimed intelligence - it is very pleasant to receive a booster shot of what genre films used to be: short, effective and memorable.
With its 97 minutes length, crystal clear pitch, absence of sub-plot/parasitic story arc or cumbersome secondary characters, Crawl arrives at the perfect time and its simplicity and modesty are most refreshing. The plot is disarmingly clear: Haley (Kaya Scodelario, Skins) is a professional swimmer. She, and her estranged father Dave (Barry Pepper, 25th Hour) are trapped in their family home during a hurricane, confronted by voracious alligators.
After a series of good, yet unmemorable films (Horns, The 9th Life of Louis Drax) and a significant amount of frustration linked to his evanescent adaptation of Space Adventure Cobra, Alexandre Aja seemed to have lost his way. Especially when looking back at the beginning of his career which seemingly started with a bang in France with the ambitious, yet little seen, Furia, the much acclaimed excellent High Tension, and one of the best remakes of the last fifteen years, The Hills Have Eyes. But with Crawl, Aja is making a noticeable comeback with a film which has been marketed from the beginning as a pure exploitation film while updating the formerly well-provided animal attack sub-genre.
While Crawl’s stubbornness to never deviate from its premise will most likely be its principal source of criticism, it definitely constitutes the film’s strength and what will most likely ensure it a bright future as a cult classic. It doesn’t pretend to be anything else, do too much and remains just as effective as the door growths markers showing the level of water rising in the house...
Continue reading Julien Bassignani's original film review: here
Paramount Pictures Home Entertainment presents Crawl on Blu-ray in a 1080p 2.39:1 aspect ratio. The picture quality is sharp with no detail lost even though a lot of the film is shot in the dimly lit recesses of the crawlspace. The decision was made to shoot the majority of the film in a soundstage so the water elements could be better controlled. As a consequence virtually every shot has had digital sky replacements or set extensions. This does give the film, especially in the few early exterior scenes, quite a fake digital look. It does, however, fit the tone of the film very well. The ominous CGI cloud filled skies give the film a look of menace that borders on a sort of hyper-reality.
The main mix is English 7.1 DTS-HD master lossless audio and it is excellent. With the majority of the film set in the tiny slowly flooding crawlspace there is a lot of ambient sound. Pipes drip, the house groans and there is the ever present rumblings of the storm outside. When our protagonists venture out into the hurricane the sound field comes alive with wind and rain effects enveloping you completely. If you have a Dolby Atmos system you’ll appreciate the extra height channels which give an extra dimension to the hurricane as it roars and mercilessly pounds at the house. I’m not ashamed to say I jumped on several occasions as the gator attacks are accompanied by a subwoofer rattling explosion of sound. Whilst not quite demonstration material Crawl boasts a very solid audio experience.
Intro to Alternate Opening 00:25 - Director Alexandre Aja simply introduces the alternate opening. I’m not sure why they don’t just attach these intros to the feature in question, rather than using them to bulk out the list of bonus features.
Alternate Opening 04:49 - This alternate opening to the film is pretty interesting. As it was never filmed it is presented as a motion comic, basically artwork that has been crudely animated with actors voices dubbed over the top. It looks similar to the previous stage of a film production where they roughly animate the storyboards to give a sense of how things flow. In this instance we get a pre-credits scene following a family attempting to escape from the incoming floods. After their car is trapped in the rising waters things turn from bad to worse when the 'gators attack. This scene is pretty brutal and very downbeat. It would have significantly changed the tone of the opening and I can see why it was cut.
Deleted and Extended Scenes
"I guess I’m off the team" 00:43 - This is just a short snippet of footage from after the swimming meet where Hayley laments to her friend that she assumes she’s off the team.
"You were never going to evacuate" 02:20 - This is a more substantial cut of a scene where Hayley finds a life insurance policy and confronts her father about his drinking and her suspicions that he was quite prepared to die in the storm.
"Don’t quit on me" 02:58 - This is an extended version of the scene where Hayley pulls her unconscious father from the water and attempts to revive him with CPR. Further tension is created when she stops, convinced he is dead, but then fights on and determinedly brings him back. For the minimal extra running time it is quite effective and personally I’d have left it in.
Beneath Crawl 28:05 - At an almost thirty minute running time this is a pretty substantial making of documentary featuring plenty of behind the scenes footage. There are interviews with all the major players including director Alexandre Aja, producer and horror legend Sam Raimi and the two main actors. It follows the production from its inception as a spec script to the decision to shoot the entire film on a sound stage. It really gives you an idea of how arduous the shoot must have been, crawling around for weeks in a very confined set and then being bombarded with deluges of water at every opportunity. As these sort of features go this one is a cut above the rest and well worthwhile.
Category 5 Gators: The VFX of Crawl 11:37 - Complementing the making of featurette is a separate look at the CGI work that went in to creating the realistic alligators. There are lots of before and after shots showing how much artistic skill goes into even the most simplistic looking shot. There is also a look at the prosthetic make up used to depict the various bloody injuries. Coupled with the main featurette this gives us a pretty comprehensive look at all the aspects of making this movie. Also it’s always fun to see actors being menaced by people dressed in green lycra pretending to be gators.
Alligator Attacks 01:32 - This feature is either a work of genius or a complete waste of time depending on your sense of humour. It is just every shot from the film where a gator attacks someone edited together for your viewing pleasure. No more, no less.
- Digital Download