Story (from IMDb): A young woman, while attempting to save her father during a category 5 hurricane, finds herself trapped in a flooding house and must fight for her life against alligators.
Themes: family, inner strength, dealing with the dysfunction of your family, alligators in hurricanes are dangerous.
Age Appropriateness: (Rated R) Adult (18+ due to language, extreme/stressful/scary situations, intent to scare, and gruesome/ violent images).
MY TAKE (minor spoilers ahead):
To really talk honestly about the movie Crawl, I feel like I need to tell 2 personal stories…
Story 1: I am not originally from the Carolinas. I still remember my first summer here. My family had gotten a new puppy, and on my day off I took him to the South Carolina Coast. The very first picture I took on my phone from this trip was of a sign by the fresh water pond near the beach that warned us to stay away because there might be alligators in the water. The sign had a picture of a stick figure alligator coming out of the water and taking a bite out of a stick figure human. My first though was, “WHAT!?!! Where have I moved to!?!”
Story 2: Later at a conference in Lakeland, Florida, I had the opportunity to go to Circle B Bar Reserve. A nature reserve along Lake Hancock. There were a lot of interesting animals to see and a lot of alligators just “hanging around.” Everything was going fine… until I was standing along the shore of the lake, taking in the sights, and a boat zoomed by. The boat created a fairly large wave wake, the water came into shore, and then it receded. As it receded, suddenly it was revealed to me that I was standing 10 feet away from several REALLY large alligators. They had been there the whole time. I just hadn’t known.
Blame it on the fact that I have not lived near alligators or the fact that I don’t like surprises. But whatever the reason… it is a fact… alligators freak me out.
The movie Crawl freaked me out. Now I’m not saying the movie is good. There are plenty of times that the movie felt like a B level horror movie (people making stupid decisions and getting murdered because of those decisions, “creatures” (in this case alligators) being way too intelligent/ powerful, extra characters appearing completely out of nowhere so they can become monster chow, etc.). There is actually a couple scenes in the movie when our main characters, father and daughter, decide that this would be a good time to talk really loudly through the details of their family issues. And I found myself thinking, “Who would have this conversation now? Just hug each other and say you love each other! You are ABOUT TO BE EATEN BY ALLIGATORS ALREADY!!!”
But despite all this, Crawl freaked me out. I’ve read that the budget of the movie was only about 17 million. But with this small amount of money I thought a very tense movie with fairly believable special effect alligators was created. Just like my experience in Lakeland, the movie was really good and long quiet pauses with alligators suddenly appearing or not appearing at their whim (rather than my expectations). But then again… alligators really freak me out.
And isn’t that the case with all horror movies. So often, the degree to which a horror movie works depends largely on whether you find the premise scary. Sure every scary movie is going to get you with some of their sudden “jump” scares, but a movie with a scary clown or ghost is going to be scariest to someone who is sort of scared of clowns or ghosts.
Looking around at our world today, I sometimes wonder how much of people’s decisions and actions are based on fear. In Family System Psychological theory there is this idea that “anxiety” is the root problem in most dysfunctional dynamics between people. People’s anxieties cause them to go into fight or flight mode (just like characters in a horror movie), and the things they say and do usually hurt others or themselves. And what is anxiety other than fear? I wonder, is it fear that is behind so many of the mass shootings today? Is it fear that is interwoven with all the angry confrontations between politicians and those who are more conservative or liberal? Is it fear that is at the heart of the racism that is still evident today? Is it fear that causes so many to refuse to listen to others, to try and “shout” over others online, and demand “safe spaces” (places where they will only hear others who think and speak like they do)? In the United States, is fear one of our biggest problems?
I know in the movie Crawl, it is my fear of alligators that made an imperfect movie so incredibly effective. But I find myself going back and thinking about one of those ridiculous scenes between father and daughter. The daughter explains (at a very inappropriate time because of all the alligators) that she isn’t swimming fast enough on her college swim team. The dad’s response (also bad timing…. due to the gators), is that she just has to get out of her head and be the fierce competitor that she already really is. It makes me wonder, how much would our world change, if more of us more often would just get out of our own heads and stop letting fear be our guide.