Director Alexandre Aja ("The Hills Have Eyes," "Piranha 3D," "Horns") does a pretty good job with his second creature feature, "Crawl."
Supposedly "based on true events," this movie is as far-fetched as most, but you really don't care. You continue watching because it is a lot of fun (if you consider blood and gore as "fun") and it keeps you, if not exactly on the edge of your seat, at least anxious at what the alligators will do next.
Yep, alligators. Not something alien or other worldly, and unlike "Piranha" (Ala's first terror animal movie), these beasts are close to home. Right here in the States. So, they are close enough to be breathing (geographically) down our necks.
The story line is consistent and flows along fast enough to keep us from being bored, while the acting (consisting mostly of the two main actors) is well played, although the dialogue does get a little too sentimental at times.
Kaya Scodelario ("The Maze Runner" series, "Skins," "Tiger House") stars as Haley, estranged daughter who was driven, all through childhood, by a pushy dad/coach, and is all the better (and worse) for it.
She actually drives into a Force 5 hurricane to check on him.
Barry Pepper ("Saving Private Ryan," "61*," "True Grit" 2010) plays Daddy Dave, and as usual turns in a great low-key performance, never standing out, only carrying the movie while letting the other actor (Scodelario) stand front-and-center.
With both starring roles looking good on paper, it is director, Aja, and his furious gators who push this movie along and make it a bit, if not scary, at least pulse-pounding.
It has to be hard to make great "jump-out" moments, when the confined location and familiar monsters are right there in (almost) plain sight.
But, Aja does it.
The special effects gators are well above average and the CGI itself is bright enough to make them look real, even in a dark crawl space.
They seem to have enough smarts to make worthy opponents for the humans involved, and their close-ups look very intimidating. A couple of the gators attacks even look gory enough to make a squeamish viewer run for the lobby.
Despite a few "that don't make much sense" and "I would have never done it that way" moments, "Crawl" moves swiftly along, chomping up the landscape (and more than a few second-tier characters).
This is no "Jaws," but it will give you the willies the next time you vacation in Florida, or watch an alligator documentary.
Billy Summers is a freelance photographer who also reviews films for the Putnam Herald. He can be reached at email@example.com.