‘Crawl’ is trashy fun if you keep expectations low

A young woman (Kaya Scodelario) and her dad (Barry Pepper) against an army of alligators in the hurricane-ravaged swamps of Florida. There’s your quick setup for Alex Aja’s Crawl.

Here’s the thing. This is a bad movie. You’ll laugh unintentionally at how stupid human beings can act under peril and how miraculously smart the non-humans are at the same time. This isn’t high art or pulpy fun. It’s cinematic trash, the campy extract of a hundred different horror-thrillers that came before it.

But I think that was all on purpose. The best way to semi-appreciate this movie is to know it is completely tongue-in-cheek, gleefully derivative, and not even a little serious. I have to think as Michael and Shawn Rasmussen were writing this script, they were either cracking up or very drunk.

Crawl plays like a tribute song to all the idiotic things that humans do in this genre, with their lives on the line and nothing else mattering much beyond the threat of being eaten. When Haley can’t get her dad, Dave, on the line as her town is being evacuated, she does what any normal-thinking person would do: drive around the road blocks, into sure danger, and tempt fate to save her old man. This part, I can understand.

It’s everything she does once inside the house-which is flooding with water, animals, various materials-that is beyond reform. She makes lots of noises, speaks loudly, grunts like Monica Seles, and a few other things that will drive you insane. She’s the young swimmer from a broken home, a former daddy’s girl who can’t break away. Do the two of them have a heart-to-heart while alligators float around them? You bet!

This is the kind of movie where a man can have his arm ripped off, and all he has to do is tie a simple knot on it, and death is starved off. A woman can have her arm chomped on twice, and only come away with a few cuts. Now, other actors with smaller roles will be grabbed and instantly ripped apart. That’s the way it works. If you are fourth or lower on the call sheet, get ready to die.

On the bright side, the film will make you jump a few times. It happens mostly early on when you aren’t ready for it. Alligators popping out of nowhere to pounce on human prey. Eventually, it becomes redundant and expected.

The acting is average at best. Scodelario alternates between scared, screaming, and crying while Pepper, a proven talent, does what he can with lackluster material. Sometimes, it’s like watching a couple people try to find new grooves in a blank piece of paper, and other times, it supplements the action.

The 87 minutes seem longer than usual, and by the end, you’ll be ready to get out of the water and into a better movie. But if you are going into this thing looking for a movie so bad that it’s kind of good, you may leave satisfied.

All I did was marvel at how the family pet knew what to do and where everybody was before anyone or anything else. Sugar The Dog gets my vote for the Sherlock Holmes of Crawl.

I can’t tell you to spend $12 on this movie, but perhaps save it for a rainy Redbox night. As far as derivative horror thrillers go, it’s a leftover cheesburger from McDonald’s that got stuck between the couch cushions. You’ll grab it, ponder the digestive danger involved, but end up eating it anyway.

Crawl isn’t a good movie, but I don’t think it carried those intentions.

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