Crawl

 

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As a category 5 hurricane brews in Florida, the Sussex-born Kaya Scodelario finds herself in the year’s most harrowing horror film.

 

Crawl

Crawlspace: Kaya Scodelario

   

That’s crawl, as in the swimming stroke. Haley Keller (Kaya Scodelario) has always dreamed of being a swimming champ, but has never made it to the top rung. However, she can hold her breath underwater which, as it turns out, may be her most valuable gift. Meanwhile, her father and former coach, Dave Keller (Barry Pepper), is having a really bad day. In the throes of a divorce, he is forced to sell the family home in Florida while his wife is off with her new boyfriend in Paris, Then, just as a category 5 hurricane is brewing, he goes missing. As stubborn and strong-willed as her father, Haley goes looking for him – against the advice of the state police and weather forecasters.

 

The French director Alexandre Aja is a master of sustained suspense. His credits include The Hills Have Eyes (2006), Piranha 3D (2010) and that classic of modern horror, Switchblade Romance (2003) – also known as High Tension. There’s plenty of tension here, thanks to Aja’s intelligent choices and the knack of the scriptwriters Michael Rasmussen and Shawn Rasmussen to constantly spring surprises on an unsuspecting audience. For one, Aja has given us a credible leading lady, a woman both fearless and resourceful and who doesn’t look like a supermodel (no offence, Ms Scodelario). The build-up to the approaching storm is also well delineated, with the rising floodwater building as menacingly as Max Aruj and Steffen Thum's artful and effective score. And Aja spares us the meretricious camera angles and specious shots, besides one fleeting moment when we catch Haley’s terrified face glimpsed through the open jaws of an alligator.

 

Following a recent slew of accomplished horror films, 2019 has rather let the side down (give or take Jordan Peele’s Us). Until now, that is. With its relentless acceleration of the pulse, Crawl is this year’s A Quiet Place, a masterclass in controlled apprehension. With the bond of father and daughter deftly established in a few succinct strokes, the film cuts to the chase as Haley finds herself out of her depth (literally and metaphorically). Here, there are no screaming spectres or outsize monsters, just enough terrestrial concerns to make you wonder why anybody would want to live in the United States. In the event, torrential rain and winds strong enough to rip a house apart are the least of Haley’s worries. When she finally tracks down her father’s mobile phone to the family home, she finds herself in the basement amidst all the mud, rats, flies, venomous spiders and worse – an apex predator of ruthless facility.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Kaya Scodelario, Barry Pepper, Morfydd Clark, Ross Anderson.

 

Dir Alexandre Aja, Pro Craig J. Flores, Sam Raimi and Alexandre Aja, Screenplay Michael Rasmussen and Shawn Rasmussen, Ph Maxime Alexandre, Pro Des Alan Gilmore, Ed Elliot Greenberg, Music Max Aruj and Steffen Thum, Costumes Momirka Bailovic, Sound Paul Hackner.

 

Ghost House Pictures/Raimi Productions-Paramount Pictures.

87 mins. France/Serbia/USA. 2019. Rel: 23 August 2019. Cert. 15.