One day destined to be seen as a stealth metaphor for climate-change denial – a brutal Florida hurricane plunges a house and its broken family into disaster – ‘Crawl’ will, for the time being, serve nicely as a merely okay giant alligator movie. Competitive college swimmer Haley (Kaya Scodelario, in square-jawed Sigourney Weaver mode) sneaks her way into the storm’s path to check in on her divorced dad (Barry Pepper, born to this kind of trashy fun), whom she discovers in the crawlspace below their old house, unconscious and a victim of gator abuse. Both become trapped down there, with relative safety only feet away. That gives them plenty of time to talk through her abandonment issues while dodging sharp teeth.
A depressing lull takes over once you realise that pretty much the whole movie is going to transpire in a cellar, which reminds me of the joke about ‘such small portions’: It’s gunky, vermin-infested – and so underlit. Director Alexandre Aja used to be a visual genius; he had a brief flourish during the torture-porn years of ‘High Tension’, ‘The Hills Have Eyes’ remake and ‘Piranha 3D’, all his. ‘Crawl’s concentrated setting could have been an exciting challenge for him, but it’s one that Aja never quite exploits. Neither do screenwriters Michael and Shawn Rasmussen, though they do give Pepper a deliriously dumb line, which is all you need from a horror time-waster like this: ‘We are going to beat these pea-brained lizard shits.’