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‘Crawl’: Sad Turgid Swamp Gator Epic

Expect Little and You Won’t be Too Disappointed

Image from 'Crawl' | Credit: Courtesy

The movie Crawl, a sad turgid swamp gator epic about a hurricane induced infestation of human-eating lizards, has found itself upstaged if not by reality, then at least by recent headlines suggesting the possibility of meth addicted gators on the prowl in Tennessee and Alabama. Read more.

That’s because law enforcement officers in Lorretto, Tennessee, kindly asked residents not to flush their meth out of consideration to the gators, who might not react well to the toxic stimulant. Biologists quoted in paragraph five give lie to the wonderfully salacious premise of the article. Gator experts pointed out that they’d never heard of such things in 40 years of research, pointing out that alligators and crocodiles would have to be injected with meth for it to have any effect.

The movie, co-produced by the great bump-jumper sensationalist Sam Raimi, is equally as disappointing, demonstrating what can go wrong when no real story line is offered. What Crawl — starring the underused and underappreciated Barry Pepper as Dave Keller, a boneheaded ornery swim-coach dad trapped in a flooding basement with a mess of hungry gators during a hurricane — is a premise, not a story. Although Raimi floors it — or at least appears to try to — the movie never kicks into any gear.

There’s a memorable shot from above as five gators converge voraciously upon a hapless first responder trying to help out Dave and his tough-plucky, but self-doubting swim star of a daughter, Haley (played by Kaya Scodelario), who came looking for him. Mostly, there’s not enough to make one jump. No explanation is offered as to why the storm causes such an inexplicable infestation of alligators, no effort made to pin this tale on the donkey of climate change. Ultimately, it’s claustrophobia porn. Father and daughter try to make it out alive as the basement fills up with water. Miraculously and mysteriously, they survive multiple gator chomps, the likes of which proved instantly fatal to everyone else so afflicted.

Still, it’s summertime and even a bad fright flick about gators run amok is a joyful occasion. Expect little and you won’t be too disappointed. For those looking for the best alligator movie ever made, I suggest you get your hands on the 1980 low-rent classic, Alligator, written by indie film director John Sayles, who used the proceeds to subsidize his rise to  directorial fame. With Sayles at the keyboard, the plot cackles with self-inflicted delight over the gleeful tastelessness that ensues.

In Alligator there’s an evil pharmaceutical company doing clandestine research on a growth serum. Dogs are kidnapped as unwitting guinea pigs and when they’ve served their diabolical purposes, their canine carcasses are dumped into the sewer, where they are feasted upon by a tiny pet gator — bought by a little girl at a Florida amusement park — that gets flushed down the toilet by an irate father. No one is surprised when that little critter grows to be the size of a Greyhound Bus and then swims from backyard pool to backyard pool, snacking occasionally on innocent if bratty six-year-olds. Alligator addresses important social issues as well, dispatching a comically self-satisfied racist big game hunter — Donald Trump Junior springs immediately to mind — sent to save the town into the jaws of doom.

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