Don't crawl; run to see this movie!
If the Coen Brothers married Alfred Hitchcock and Bernard Herrmann was at the wedding, the ceremony would likely look a lot like the movie Crawl, an excellent new thriller from Australia that everyone will have an opportunity to watch at our upcoming Panic Fest in April. Be sure you take the opportunity!
The beginning is reminiscent of No Country for Old Men as a character named "The Stranger" in the credits (but who will later be called "The Croatian") has a threatening confrontation with a gas station attendant. The set-up and the resulting convoluted, yet ultimately simple, plot are pure Coen Brothers. But the execution is pure Hitchcock with masterful scenes of suspense.
There is sometimes a fine line between the thriller and horror genres. I've read all kinds of dissertations on their similarities and differences. I found Crawl interesting and unique because the story is without a doubt a thriller, yet it is filmed as if it were horror. There's a bad guy, but his motives are typical thriller motives with nothing necessarily horrific about them. Yet, scenes where he stalks his prey in a lonely house are straight out of the scariest (and goriest) horror movies you've ever seen.
It's a terrific combination of styles that may frustrate those who like to define and categorize their genres, but will more likely distract them enough to not worry about it too much. Now, add a score heavily influenced by the great Bernard Herrmann (Citizen Kane, Psycho) and you have a modern movie that's a throwback to the classics, yet strictly of our era.
With only a few scenes and a handful of sets, Crawl may be perceived as slow-moving. But each long passage is a self-contained exercise in skilled filmmaking. The humor is dark and the details are rich. Nothing that appears onscreen is irrelevant. A cake left in the back seat of a car may seem to be a cheap plot device, but will later appear in a thoughtful explanation of purpose. Particularly delicious is the reason (reasons?) the movie is titled "Crawl".
Who are the people responsible for this surprising delight of a film? Crawl is British writer/director Paul China's first movie. I can't wait to see what he does next! And the score is by British composer Christopher Gordon (Master & Commander, Daybreakers). Together they've crafted something that's equal parts retro and forward-thinking.
Crawl's only flaw would be that it sometimes, particularly near the end, focuses more on style than substance. It takes our heroine just a little too long to unlock the chain on the door and The Stranger/Croatian takes a little too long to drag his axe across the floor while he's pursuing her. I admire China for not sacrificing his vision for even one moment, but by emphasizing the technical aspects of filming a suspenseful scene, he slightly diminishes the actual effect of the scene.
That's small criticism for an unexpectedly great movie. I wouldn't crawl; I'd run to see it as soon as you can.