Director: Alex Aja
Cast: Barry Pepper, Kaya Scodelario
Runtime: 1 hr 27 mins
Rating: NC16 (Some Violence)
Released By: UIP
Opening Day: 11 July 2019
Synopsis: When a massive hurricane hits her Florida hometown, Haley (Kaya Scodelario) ignores evacuation orders to search for her missing father (Barry Pepper). Finding him gravely injured in the crawl space of their family home, the two become trapped by quickly encroaching floodwaters. As time runs out to escape the strengthening storm, Haley and her father discover that the rising water level is the least of their fears.
Although it is unlikely that you will be in the same predicament as this movie’s protagonist, you may want to be careful the next time you stand too close to a zoo’s alligator enclosure.
French film director Alexandre Aja, who is best known for his horror movies like the 2006 remake of The Hill Have Eyes and the gore fest Piranha 3D (2010), has delivered an underrated but competent scare flick. It is going to do for alligators what Steven Spielberg’s Jaws (1975) did for sharks.
The story brings together the elements of a disaster blockbuster and scary animal movie. The protagonist is a college student (Kaya Scodelario) who has some family issues. When a hurricane strikes, she drives to her old family home to ensure that her estranged father (Barry Pepper) is safe. She finds him unconscious in a flooded house and what’s even more terrifying is the realisation that alligators are making their way into the house with the rainwater.
Amidst this season of pompous summer blockbusters, this movie’s 88-minute runtime is much welcomed. The taut story written by Michael and Shawn Rasmussen keeps the movie’s pace fast and furious, and there is not one bit of sluggishness. You will watch out for lurking alligators round the corner, and feel the urge to warn the traumatised father-and-daughter pair.
If you are a fan of horror movies, this one will remind you of The Shallows (where a stranded bikini-clad Blake Lively has to fight off a shark) and Don’t Breathe (where a group of trapped teenagers have to fight off a blind murderer). Much of the action takes place in the crawl space of the flooded house, and the scare factor goes up with the rising rainwater. Think you had a bad day? How about being trapped in a basement with bloodthirsty alligators?
Scodelario (Maze Runner: The Death Cure) gives it her all to play the heroine of the movie. Crawling from one corner to another in the claustrophobic basement, the English actress is a survivor who is tough as nails. Watch out for a tingling scene where lots of creepy crawlies unexpectedly fall onto her face – seeing it is almost as real as having spiders dropping onto you. Scodelario’s reunites with her Maze Runner co-star Pepper, who portrays her stubborn but kind father. The strong bond between the two characters is believable, and you will root for them to survive the ordeal.
You don’t watch a movie like this for a logical story. Cynics will pan the screenplay for being formulaic (supporting characters appear at predictable moments to be torn into pieces by the alligators, so the main characters can escape) and absurd (a brainless looter decides to steal a few more packets of potato chips in a flooded supermarket, only to realise that it wasn’t the wisest thing to do when an alligator appears at his feet).
But viewers are here to scream in glee at the bloodshed: expect heads and limbs to be chomped off. There are even alligator eggs to send chills down your spine. It won’t be a classic, but it will be a fun, scary and harrowing hell of a ride in the cinema.
(This movie isn’t going to win any Oscars, but that’s alright. Because it's going to do for alligators what Jaws did for sharks!)
Review by John Li