The Only Thing More Shocking Yesterday Than Walt Disney’s Relative Dismissal The Lion King by its first wave of reviews (59% rotten with an average rating of 6.37/10 to rotten tomatoes) was the apparent unreserved embrace of Paramount Crawl. The film got a single screening for the junket press, but the film came and went last night without a conventional film review screening. By the way, however, this morning the film sits with 88% fresh and an average rating of 7.3/10 to rotten tomatoes.
My wife and I saw the movie last night, paying our eldest $25 to watch our two youngest for the two hours it took to sneak in to a local 7:45 screening. Without making a full review, I can point out that Crawl, written by Michael and Shawn Rasmussen and directed by Alexandra Aja, is precisely what it promises. It’s a narrative-driven, visually claustrophobic horror story about a young woman (Kaya Scodelario) and her injured father (Barry Pepper) trying to escape their old home amid rising hurricane waters and stormy seas. a group of alligators.
Like The shallows, this surprisingly great survival melodrama “Blake Lively against the shark” from 2016, this one gives you a likable main character or two, an emotional backstory, hints of family turmoil to make sure we get away with it. Let’s care, then it’s off to the races as it pits our heroes against an unstoppable eating machine. In its limited intentions and limited aims, it is an almost complete success. Besides having more false endings than Breaking point (Where Return of the King), the film is a rock-solid exercise in tension and suspense with a decent budget ($13.5 million).
We get plenty of alligator action, but the “how” and “why” of the film’s suspenseful sequences and violent attacks are staged for maximum tension and not a bit of misdirection. Yes, the horrific circumstances allow father and daughter to come to terms with past sins and past emotional barriers, so if they both survive, they will be as close as they have ever been. Since the story may work if the father dies, its inclusion is a constant source of bruised forearm tension. Less the family dog, but this pet is the closest thing this dark, gritty film has to comic relief.
So yes, if the elevator pitch of Crawl sounds appealing to you, then you should know that this is an exceptionally well-made (it looks both gorgeous and unpleasantly dirty at the same time) version of that movie. Scodelario is terrific in what is her first major studio star vehicle (she’s headlined a few indies in addition to being “the girl” in the maze runner series and the last Pirates of the Caribbean), and Pepper once again shows why he’s such a reliable companion actor. The film lives or dies by its ability to win your sympathy.
Aja does what he does best, with a little less cruelty than you might expect from the director of The hills Have Eyes and 3D piranhas. Given the lack of excessive gore (oh, there is gore, but it’s more realistic and muted) and the constant profanity, I wonder if this was billed as a PG-13 movie, but the one we What we got is a robust but not over the top R-rated thriller. This all brings us back to the big question at the top. Why on earth didn’t Paramount let us (and you) know in advance that their alligator movie was a winner?
Studios release their movies without screenings if they think they have a stink. Sometimes it’s more complicated than that. Paramount inexplicably did not screen Dwayne Johnson Hercules for most media, and to this day, I’m guessing that’s because the startling action-fantasy was a very different film from the “watching Hercules complete the 12 labors” marketing campaign. Additionally, Warner Bros. held back The House two years ago because it was just the “Hey, it’s okay, I guess” kind of comedy that would get a bunch of mixed negative reviews and therefore end up with 22% on rotten tomatoes.
There’s a lot of “But wait, that movie was pretty good!” examples over the years, especially in the realm of cheap (or cheap) horror. Think, out of the blue, Quarantine, Devil and The Amityville Horror (the remake starring Ryan Reynolds). I would maintain that “hiding” innocuous mediocrities like Removal, one for the money and Faded away poisoned the well and created the impression before the release that they were worse than they were. Ditto for the much debated Stephen Sommers (and especially very well) GI Joe: The Rise of the Cobrawhich Paramount hid from the press and then tried to sell as “a film for an overflown country”.
The rise of the cobra was a pretty nice mega-budget G.I. Joe movie, at least for the first 90 minutes until it pretzeled itself trying to reform Sienna Miller’s Baroness, and it still opened with $54 million in August 2009. Would the reception have been better? with the conventional press “Monday or Tuesday before the release” of screenings? I can’t say, but the movie still has a reputation as a big-budget disaster, and poor Sommers is still in director jail. I still maintain that Snakes on a plane would have performed better had it been screened for the press.
The up-and-coming cult sensation was hidden from view until its Thursday screenings at 9 p.m. He was disappointed with $13 million over the opening weekend. Now, a $13 million debut for a really good Samuel L. Jackson thriller about, well, snakes on a plane, sounded just before the hype machine kicked in and the movie hit. be sold by New Line Cinemas as the greatest cult film of all time. However, most moviegoers weren’t about to shell out money for movie tickets and maybe babysitters for a movie they were told was “so bad it is good”.
Imagine how much better buzz New Line Cinema would have had heading into the weekend with a parade of positive critical reviews behind them? Same with Crawl. I have no idea why it was hidden from (most) reviews. It’s a good movie (unlike The Avengersno, the OTHER avengers), it doesn’t try to create a cult tune (unlike Snakes on a plane), it is precisely the film that is announced (unlike Hercules) and there’s nothing in the way of gonzo bananas plot twists (unlike psychology) or “problematic” content (unlike No good deed). It’s just a solid B-movie horror movie.
Yes, I have contacted Paramount about the specific reasons for this strategy, and will update if they respond. The only optimistic scenario I can think of is that Paramount thought/hoped that a wave of “Hey, that’s pretty good!” opinions fall rotten tomatoes release morning would be just as helpful as a classic drip of mixed positive reviews leading up to opening day. Otherwise, I can only assume the studio thought we critics would like it less than we did. It’s not a great tragedy, but it is an oddity.
Point being, Crawl is very good, and if it’s the kind of movie that gets your boat floating, paddle to the nearest multiplex and check it out.