Crawl (2019)

Released: July 12, 2019. Directed by: Alexandre Aja. Starring: Kaya Scodelario, Barry Pepper, Ross Anderson. Runtime: 1h 27 min.

In Florida, a Category 5 hurricane has just hit. Haley (Kaya Scodelario) goes to check on the well-being of her estranged father, Dave (Barry Pepper). She finds him unconscious in the crawlspace of their childhood home but cannot get him out because she realizes they’re trapped in there with alligators, and the crawlspace is going to flood… Cue the thrills.

Tornadoes and sharks (“Sharknado”). Hurricanes and heists (“The Hurricane Heist”). Even clowns and tornadoes (“Clownado,” yes, it’s a real movie). It’s all the rage these days to mesh these things together in campy B-movies. “Crawl” is already one step ahead of the rest by not naming itself “Gatorcane.”

“Crawl” is a smarter title because I love dual meanings. I’d assumed it was called Crawl because gators crawl around. But when watching this, I realized it’s also called that because a lot of it takes place in a crawlspace. I smiled because dumb stuff like that makes me happy.

This film is unique is in the way that it doesn’t want to be a B-movie like “Sharknado.”. The film takes its stakes seriously, but it finds a way to be very fun. The premise also feels fresh. I wasn’t expecting a one-location thrill ride for most of the film. The threat of flooding adds stakes and claustrophobia, too.

Writing duo and brothers Michael and Shawn Rasmussen utilize the sets well for the characters. They know when to have some great, tense set pieces inside the house, and when to take scenes onto the streets, where we catch up with some looters. Alexandre Aja brings great direction to these scenes and the film in general.

The combination of a hurricane and alligators is plausible here. There’s a believable reason as to why the gators are in the crawlspace. The house has been left alone for awhile as it’s been in escrow and the gators found their way in from the swamp. When Dave comes back to the house, the gators are already there. This just happens to be during a hurricane.

Haley passes an alligator farm on the way to the house so if you would have told me the hurricane destroyed a gate and they escaped, I would have believed that, too. I’m pretty sure these gators join the party later, anyway. The gators themselves look very fine, by the way. They definitely look believable enough on the $13 million budget.

The film does a great job of balancing thrills of a disaster movie for fans of those films and it will also satisfy the fans looking for a fun summer season creature feature. I know you’re here for the gators or the hurricane, but we should talk about the humans. Scodelario and Pepper play their roles well and the estranged father/daughter dynamic is strong. Their chemistry also strengthens as the film moves along. There’s also a coach dynamic which offers standoffish tension in the relationship.

Crawl article

Kaya Scodelario in “Crawl.” (IMDb)

Haley is a competitive swimmer and Dave’s coached her throughout her career. Her being a swimmer also gives her a very particular set of skills for this situation (skills that make her a nightmare for gators like them), and that’s the most convenient thing about the film. The idea of her out-swimming the gators isn’t super plausible, but it’s interesting. I mean if Michael Phelps, the fastest man in a pool, can almost beat a great white shark, surely this unknown competitive swimmer has a fighting chance at outrunning Florida’s meanest gator community, right? Right? Tune in Sunday at 8 p.m. on Gator Week to find out!

There are some strong character beats and dialogue about her being an apex predator and needing to have a better mentality to win is fascinating. This aspect brings out some solid one-liners and the coach pep talks made me feel amped up. I really wanted to punch some gators. In one scene they talk about their relationship. It’s a surprisingly lovely character moment. Before it gets too sappy, Dave says, “We’re gonna beat these lizard-brained shits.”

I think that’s the right mentality for the film: Have enough character development that we care about these people and give us some nice moments, but then straighten out the priorities and get right back into kick-ass gator action. It’s in the character building that the film threatens to be boring when it gets too dialogue heavy. There aren’t many scenes like that, and the horror set pieces are diverse enough and the obstacles introduced entertaining enough to make up for it.

It’s also important that we don’t care too much about the stars because we want to see them get munched on. It wouldn’t be fun if they got out of this without looking like they just survived Hell in a Cell (Brawl-space in a Crawlspace?) with a bunch of gators. Don’t fret, though, because any audience appetites for bloody action will be satisfied with the poor expendable characters. More importantly, the gator’s appetites are satisfied, too. And that’s really what makes the world go ‘round.

Score: 75/100

Son of God (2014)

Son of GodReleased: February 28, 2014. Directed by: Christopher Spencer. Starring: Diogo Morgado, Amber Rose Revah, Sebastian Knapp. Runtime: 138 min.

“Son of God” is one of those films where one’s personal enjoyment is determined by their faith. That’s because this film depicts the life story of Jesus Christ, from his birth, to his teachings, to his crucifixion and ultimate resurrection. For the majority of people who believe in God, they’ll like this. The reason critics would see this is because they’re paid to, regardless of their faith. What brought me to see this film? Glad you asked imaginary voice in my head, because I believe in God and Jesus, and I try to see all of the films that I can muster.

Even though I do believe in the teachings of the Bible, this film isn’t that enjoyable to me – making me a case against the “if you believe in God, you’ll enjoy this film” argument. I think this is a poorly done, awful movie. I just hope God doesn’t smite me while I’m writing this review. If I’m still writing, it must mean I must be alive. Anyway, the film is just decently acted with only a few believable performances. The pacing skips jarringly ahead to his birth, to when he has followers – only his “recruiting sessions” with Matthew (Said Bey) and Peter (Darwin Shaw) are shown. One can tell which is John (Sebastian Knapp) because he is also part-narrator, and it’s obvious which one is Mary (Amber Rose Revah). Doubting Thomas (Matthew Gravelle) has his name spoken not until the end of the film, so for those of you who forget his name will be wondering the whole time. When Judas (Joe Wredden) speaks, and since Jesus’ disciples blend into the background, people might think, “Has he been here the whole time?” His body double was probably in his place until he had lines.

My favourite performance is Sebastian Knapp’s, the man who portrays John, because he captures the delicate emotions of the character – even though only some disciples have development but the people who are seeing this are probably those who have read the Bible. One believable performance is from Greg Hicks, who captures the cruelty of Pontius Pilate. Diogo Morgado isn’t a great Jesus. To play Jesus, the actor must have a magnetic presence that most of the characters would simply stop what they’re doing and listen to what he has to say. Morgado simply doesn’t portray that power, and when the main actor doesn’t give a believable performance, it’s all downhill from there. The only good aspects from his performance is the fear, pain and acceptance he portrays during the crucifixion portion of the film. Otherwise, he’s part of the reason I couldn’t believe the film.

The miracles Jesus conjures up are also a lot more believable on paper, especially with these awful visuals. The most only half-decent visuals are at the beginning showing the stories of Adam and Eve, Noah, Moses and Abraham. There’s miracle where Jesus simply holds up a basket of fish and bread and then he believes it would be filled with fish for the hungry, and – ta da – it is. This is a miracle I have trouble believing, because it would be better if fish just rained from the sky. I’d ask, “Does it taste more like fish… or air?” I have an easier time believing the food fight with imaginary food in 1991’s “Hook.” During another miracle, he says that if you believe in God, you’ll never die. I assume he’s talking about the spirit, but if he isn’t, how silly; this teaching seems wedged in. I love the teachings of God, but other films – perhaps “The Passion of the Christ,” which I still have to see – must depict his teachings better. Better yet, just stick to the Bible. In this film, the image of Jesus sitting on a side of a mountain with his disciples teaching them how to pray strikes me as more silly than inspiring.

Throughout, some might think that this all has a TV quality about it. Bad news. This film is literally a TV movie plastered on the big screen. It’s condensed and edited from the History channel’s “The Bible,” a 10-hour mini-series that is condensed into a 138-minute film. No wonder the editing has breaks in it where it goes to black, which must be an ending of an episode. The cinematography is also ugly in parts, where Jesus is out of focus for a good thirty seconds. There’s one ugly, ugly grainy shot that is of the Temple, and there’s always a bird flying in the same place… I think I’ve seen better visuals in films by Asylum Entertainment (“Sharknado,” “40 Days and Nights”).

The sets also have an unbelievable TV quality about them, too, and it just doesn’t work. When Jesus is walking on water, he literally does look like a ghost and it’s not a great scene because of the bad visuals. Looking at this at a technical perspective, it’s an ugly film. The film still portrays a message, but the randomized plotting is strange. There’s cuts in the plot where you can just tell there might have been important development cut out, the sort-of way films aired on TV are shortened so there can be time for commercials. It skips from him meeting Peter, to having all of his disciples rounded up, to the High Priests accusing him for blasphemy; and it really just goes from miracle, to miracle, to miracle. This plotting is boring, and since Morgado isn’t a good Jesus, and since the teachings are made so simplistic, some of the film’s emotional power (save the crucifixion) is squandered. By the way, some of the costume design seems so limited, it looks like a few of the Priests are just wearing bath towels.

This big screen experience masquerading as a film is completely deceiving. As an aspiring movie critic, I’m going to the theatre to review a film. Not a TV mini-series edited lazily into a film. This is just lazy filmmaking, if you can call it that. Making films and a TV series are two completely different processes, and have to be reviewed differently, so this is what is so strange about this flick – people expect to see a real film, first made for the theatres, not TV. This film is simply the Reader’s Digest version of TV’s “The Bible,” and I’m one of the types who want to watch the full story. Since you now know that this is just a TV show edited into a film, just stay home and watch the TV series. And if you don’t have ten hours on your hands, just skip this altogether, unless you’re a faithful person wanting your spirits raised. Otherwise, this just sucks.

Score: 38/100