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Crawl is an exercise in efficient narrative. The initial set-up clarifies the stormy relationship between swimmer Haley (Kaya Scodelario) and father Dave (Barry Pepper), while media broadcasts warn of further storms as a hurricane approaches the Florida setting. Despite the strained relationship, Haley doggedly searches for Dave as she drives through increasingly wet terrain. Thus the stage is set for claustrophobic terrors in a flooding basement and increasing numbers of alligators. Crawl will not win any prizes for originality, but it delivers tension and jump scares aplenty. Director Alexandre Aja makes great use of the threatening environment, both in terms of limited space and rising water. The alligators appear out of the darkness like malevolent shadows, and their lumbering forms allow for white-knuckle chases as Haley crawls over the mud. In addition, swimming sequences may have the viewer holding their breath as Hayley must simultaneously strive for the surface and avoid her more aquatically nimble adversaries. She makes for a brilliant protagonist: in a Q&A following the screening, star Skodelario described Crawl as the most feminist script she had read in a decade. It is testament to the strength of Michael and Shawn Rasmussen script that Haley has no romantic interest, and nor does she have to appear in her underwear (despite all the swimming). Rather, she proves herself a capable and relatable person to lead the film, with the resourcefulness and determination needed to be the apex predator she is described as. All of these elements add up to a brilliantly intense, visceral creature feature of claustrophobia, jump scares, family tensions and survival. Plus a bit with a dog.

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