New release film Crawl is a beer-guzzling blast of survival horror

A young woman’s trapped in a flooding house during a Category 5 Florida hurricane and must battle against alligators in new horror release Crawl from Alexandre Aja (Piranha 3D, Horns). Aaron Yap wholeheartedly recommends it to those looking for unrepentantly goosed-up nature-goes-nuts mayhem.

With each passing year, Jaume Collett-Sera’s dexterous, exquisitely kinetic shark thriller The Shallows looks more and more like a benchmark for how good a modern-day Jaws-styled creature feature can be. Alexandre Aja’s Crawl fundamentally operates in the same zone: a modestly budgeted studio counter-programmer, supplying a much-needed gasp of air from the oppressive maw of tentpole franchises.

If it isn’t as moment-to-moment sublime as The Shallows, it is comparatively nimble in approach, milking a tried-and-true formula for all its visceral, pulpy worth. You want big alligators attacking people? You’ll definitely get big alligators attacking the shit out of people.

Some clunky patches aside, mostly involving terrible expository dialogue and exteriors that look like recycled green-screen vomit from The Hurricane Heist, Crawl is unrepentantly goosed-up nature-goes-nuts mayhem when it gets fired up. Alexandre Aja is a generally spotty genre specialist, but this might be his tightest, most focused effort since Haute Tension. Clearly stoked to have at his disposal, the handsomest all-CGI gators to ever grace the big screen, Aja stages the setpieces with economically vicious glee, juggling claustrophobic disaster-movie suspense and merciless bouts of bloodthirsty reptilian chomping into a beer-guzzling blast of survival horror.

Kaya Scodelario doesn’t possess the magnetic star power of Blake Lively to sell some of the film’s cornier moments, but makes a respectable, spirited play for lead heroine archetype, her lithe athleticism ably fulfilling a physically demanding role that wedges her into damp, cramped spaces for long periods of time.

If nothing else, Crawl will look nice on the shelf next to your cherished Lake Placid DVD.