It’s said that the easiest way to tell the difference between an alligator and a crocodile is whether you see them later or in a while. This may not help with multiplex-friendly monster movie “Crawl” though, because shortly after the headline critters make their literally scenery-chewing debut, they then abruptly disappear from the movie for a while. Don’t worry, though, you do see them later.

With a destructive category five hurricane bearing down on her Floridian hometown, competitive swimmer Haley (Kaya Scodelario) decides to drive home into the storm when she can’t get hold of her estranged father. When she discovers him, injured, in the root cellar of their old house, her rescue attempt is rudely interrupted by the appearance of several hungry alligators.

Journeyman horror director Alexandre Aja brings some degree of cinematic scale to this straight-to-DVD concept although the first proper jump scare comes courtesy of a knowing nod to producer Sam Raimi’s seminal “The Evil Dead” but from there on out, it’s a decidedly more perfunctory affair. Time and again, the film builds a degree of tension only to fritter it away with silliness or stupidity. Nothing is helped by the movie’s confused sense of space and geography. Not only is it unclear where to or why the ‘gators disappear for fifteen to twenty minutes after they make a splash introducing themselves but the root cellar itself seems borderline dimensionally transcendental in terms of how much bigger it seems on the inside than the house above it. Mind you it’s hardly that surprising given the house itself apparently sits simultaneously on the edge of a cliff and yet also at street level.

As the movie progresses, the alligators become less threatening even as they become more numerous. Not only is the CGI occasionally less than convincing but their bites are risibly nerfed whenever they come into contact with our heroine who seems to be able to shrug off attacks which criple or kill lesser cast members with ease. “Crawl” may have pretensions of being something more but it’s really just a bad shark movie, only with alligators. Notably reminiscent of [actually pretty good] bad shark movie “Bait”, “Crawl” is fun enough for a popcorn movie and may play even better after a few drinks so if you really want to turn it into a drinking game, take a shot every time you roll your eyes. You probably won’t make it to the end of the film.

5/10

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