February 26, 2013 (DVD)
Georgina Haig as Marilyn Burns
Paul Holmes as Slim Walding
George Shevtsov as The Stranger
One glance at the promotional poster (which boasts loads of positive quotes from a slew of typically reliable outlets) released for Crawl and you can all but guarantee we’ve got a new genre smash on our hands. Frightfest bestowed the film a four star rating. The film picked up a trio of Screamfest awards. Dreadcentral makes the declaration that Crawl“Rivals No Country for Old Men in gritty style and suspense.” Aint it Cool called it a “fantastic achievement”… and well, the praise seems to roll on, dished out in heaping morsels from some of the genre’s most recognizable media outlets.
Yep, a single look at all that critical acclaim practically ensures a mind-blowing flick, right?Crawl has got the kind of hype to get the anxiety and anticipation working overtime. Just reading about the film is likely to make nine of 10 horror hounds hungry to devour this production as soon as humanly possible.
I fed my appetite, and having done so it must be said: I’d love to see the picture that all these critics saw! This isn’t a fantastic achievement and it doesn’t rival No country for Old Men, it rips it off, and blatantly at that! But it doesn’t pull the plug on “paying tribute” (in this instance, that term is complete and utter hogwash) to the Coen Brothers at No Country, it also draws heavily from the Coen’s mid-80’s effort, Blood Simple.
In place of Javier Bardem’s, Anton Chigurh (No Country) we’ve got George Shevtsov’s “The Stranger” while a quick swap of Frances McDormand’s, Abby (Blood Simple) for Georgina Haig’s, Marilyn Burns (this name spin is about the only “tribute” that doesn’t transfer as complete theft) function as immediate detractors. Throw in a completely directionless script that leans on the hope of duplicating everything enjoyable about the aforementioned features and you’ve got Crawl, one of the least inventive pictures to hit the market in ages.
It may seem as though the No Country for Old Men comparisons are being pummeled into dead horse territory rather quickly here, but you’ve got to realize… this is Paul China’s attempt at… almost remaking the legendary slow-burn thriller. Our mysterious hitman is quiet, awkward, causes hell for a convenience store clerk early on, and even sports extremely similar attire to that of Anton. It’s actually surprising that he doesn’t utilize a cattle gun (or captive bolt pistol if you prefer precise technicalities) to exterminate those in his way. I’ve got a feeling China had trouble getting his hands on that unforgiving tool… either that or someone with half a brain stepped up to inform him that the incorporation of a cattle gun would just be way too much.
The story doesn’t involve a heaping stack of cash or cartel drug deals gone wrong, but it doesn’t involve anything unique either, and there’s virtually no attempt at resolving conflicts. We know a hitman suddenly surfaces and offs some sorry soul who’s had an issue repaying an old debt. We also know that the guy who hired him (Slim, portrayed by Paul Holmes) is a scumbag with an interesting sexual fetish. Precisely why did he pay (that was an awfully small stack of cash for a man’s life!) to have a man murdered? We never find out. Why does our mysterious hitman take Marilyn hostage (after an accident on the road that’s left him without means of transport) when he could have played a number of different angles to escape scott-free and in timely fashion at that? The plot doesn’t make much sense, and the only real explanation for the questions regarding our featured villain is that he’s a sadistic bastard who enjoys tormenting people… wait, that sounds an awful lot like a singularly dimensioned take on Anton Chigurh. No surprise there.
At least Anton brought a tangibly disconcerting narcissistic God Complex to No Country for Old Men. Crawl’s antagonist doesn’t bring anything other than silence and dry one-liners to the screen.
There isn’t so much as 60 seconds of actual originality showcased in Crawl. Just the same, Paul China (who writes as well as directs) actually has some potential (this is Paul’s first picture) as a filmmaker… it just goes to waste on this effort.
There’s an early sequence that features Marilyn investigating some strange sounds in the house, and there’s genuine tension built here. It’s a fantastic scene (here’s where the major influence ofBlood Simple comes into play) anchored by the lack of a score (the soundtrack is existent but extremely minimalized) and assembled using perfect editing, creative camera shots and a strong showing from Haig. Sadly, it’s the picture’s lone shining moment. China obviously knew he had a thrilling scene on his hands, as he attempts to replicate it time and again throughout the film. Unfortunately the same trick doesn’t work repeatedly on the same audience. We saw it early and it captivated, but cutting and pasting identical shots in a half dozen spots over the course of 80 minutes doesn’t produce a steady dose of suspense.
In regards to the film’s performers, they’re deserving of applause. Georgina Haig really does have the potential to emerge a certified star in the cinematic field. Paul Holmes sells white trash with the ease of a Snap-On truck positioned in a new housing development and George Shevtsov – if given something to work with – could probably knock the ball out of the park. These three carry the picture and their believability is the only legitimately – sans the aforementioned scene – redeemable strength detectable in the flick.
If you’re unfamiliar with the Coen Brothers’ work, check this one out: it might prove a stimulating chiller. If you’ve cherished the works of the Coens for years, as I have, you’re more apt to be highly annoyed by Crawl than pleased. There’s a major difference between a tribute and a case of robbery, and China seems intent to exercise the five-finger discount rather than offer up honorable nods to two brilliant minds.