film

Review: Crawl!

Written by Michael and Shawn Rasmussen and directed by Alexandre Aja, “Crawl” is a tight thriller about a young woman helping her estranged father survive a hurricane while fighting off numerous alligators. The heavy marketing of Sam Raimi as a producer may have caught my attention, but it was the prospect of a competent summer horror film that got me into a seat for this one. That, and the fact that I tend to gravitate towards a good “man versus nature” story. The thing that struck me most in the first act of the film was that the film took itself seriously as a competent thriller. Which was more than I expected going into this one, I assumed it would be more tongue-in-cheek camp, something along the lines of the director’s previous work in “Piranha 3D”. We begin the film with our lead character Haley (Kaya Scodelario) in a swimming practice as a Hurricane begins to batter the Florida coast. The film wastes no time getting the plot moving along as Haley’s soon called by her sister Beth (Morfydd Clark) to see about their father Dave (Barry Pepper), Haley agrees even though we see apprehension in her eyes.

After finding an abandoned apartment, Haley heads to the old family home (recently put on the market)

Haley gets to the family house and searches for her father, eventually leading to the crawlspace under the main level. The whole first act resides here, and that was a smart decision. After finding her father unconscious near some piping, she comes face to face with a large ‘gator’- the one that took a nasty bite out of her father’s leg. Haley manages to wake her father back up as they try to find a way around the ‘gator’ that’s perched itself right next to the stairs out. I won’t go through and breakdown every character action in the film but the filmmakers and cast did an excellent job of playing into natural fears that people have, claustrophobia, aquaphobia, mysophobia etc. The cat and mouse sequences between Haley and the ‘gators’ were very effective and pleasantly thrilling throughout! Those swimming practices paid off. The constantly rising water was also very effective in forcing the characters to push themselves and go for the riskier maneuvers.

Rising water works great as a ticking clock!

Keeping with the rising water, this forces the characters to move into the next floor or room, all of which come with new challenges and scares as the gators have new advantages and difficulties as well. There are a few qualms I should mention at this point- but they are few and didn’t truly impact my enjoyment of the film. Any and all side characters that are introduced in the movie are essentially only there to be killed by alligators- which is fine, there needs to be a legitimate threat introduced to instill urgency, but I was surprised with the speed at which these people were devoured by these modern day dinosaurs. There’s also almost no thought put into how our two main characters would realistically handle some of the admittedly gruesome wounds they have inflicted on them throughout the movie- like, you can’t push a major leg bone back into your leg and then walk and run on it just fine when needed- but hey, this is an hour and a half movie about killer alligators, it’s not “Citizen Kane” you know?

Barry Pepper stars in CRAWL from Paramount Pictures. Photo Credit: Sergej Radović.

So, if you’re looking for a fun summer flick with some good scares and solid pacing under a tight hour and thirty minutes- this is it! “Crawl” was better than expected and a damn fine summer flick to kill a hot afternoon, check it out!

Final Score: 1 Father, 1 Daughter, and Dozens of Alligators!

film

Review: High Tension (Switchblade Romance)

Written by Grégory Levasseur and Alexandre Aja and directed by Aja, “High Tension” (also known in several formats as “Switchblade Romance”), is a French Horror/Slasher film that was suggested to me by a fellow film obsessive. While this isn’t really the type of film I gravitate towards, I thought I’d give it a shot anyways. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by so called Midnight Movies before, “Bucket of Blood” by Roger Corman in particular was a film that I found to have far more entertainment value that I would have initially expected. So, I recently popped in a copy of the foreign horror flick to see what the film had in store for me.

Admittedly, I didn’t realize this would be a slasher film at the outset, but it became clear to me once the villain entered the frame. Personally, I am not a fan of this sub-genre of the overarching horror aesthetic, I often find these kinds of stories to be predictable and overly gratuitous purely for the sake of shock and awe. This film definitely sends the violence into overdrive almost immediately. The rating on the copy I was watching was emblazoned with the studio-averse NC-17 rating, and they definitely owned that rating. The story is that of Marie (Cécile De France) and Alex (Maïwenn Le Besco), best friends getting ready to study together out at Alex’s parent’s farmhouse in the French countryside. As you can imagine, things go south fairly quickly once the young women arrive at the isolated house surrounded by fields of corn. Once everyone has headed to bed, a large and imposing figure comes knocking at the door and forces his way inside by stabbing the father figure in the head through an open window in the door. From there the film evolves into a cat and mouse scenario between Marie and this unnamed brute. The Oaf quickly works his way through the house killing everyone except Alex, whom he chains up and tosses in the back of his truck. Marie scrambles to keep up, but often seems one step behind the killer.

At a brisk hour and a half, the film realistically couldn’t go on for much longer than that, “High Tension” unceremoniously ends. While the film does harbor a twist, it throws the rest of the film into question and becomes ridiculously unbelievable because of it. Honestly, it failed to keep me engaged and it was essentially what I had hoped it wouldn’t be. Overly violent without remorse, but with no connection to anything worthwhile, with no payoff and no semblance of coherence. Now, if you’re the type of person that just loves a good gore-fest and cheesy storytelling, then you might find something to enjoy here. That’s completely fine, but this film just wasn’t for me.

Final Score: Two Girls, One Chainsaw