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Crawl

Since ‘Jaws’ stormed the cinema box office in 1975 dozens of imitators have surfaced. The ‘natural beast on the loose’ formula since has spawned its own genre. There are too many to mention with ‘Crawl’ the latest variant in an ever-expanding movie world. No less tense or implausible, ‘Crawl’ offers ghoulishly fun thrills proving that in films, it’s never safe to go into the water.

Haley (Kaya Scodelario) is an expert swimmer studying at a university in Florida. Estranged from her father Dave (Barry Pepper), she nevertheless checks in on him when a massive storm breaks. Discovering him in peril at home, Haley uses her skills to save him. She doesn’t count on Mother Nature’s relentless fury as well as a group of angry alligators ready to strike.

Alexandre Aja directs ‘Crawl’ with tongue very firmly in cheek. That’s just as well as it’s occasionally difficult to believe the dilemmas the characters face. It’s part of the charm of these films as you go along for the ride in wondering how they’ll survive the oncoming onslaught. If you can overcome the huge leaps of logic, ‘Crawl’ becomes a solid time-waster with decent scares and people to care for.

In what is essentially a two person cast, Scoderlario and Pepper give strong performances. Their roles conjure genuine believability with both giving it their all in what must have been a strenuous shoot. The CGI alligators and scenery are amazingly rendered and help move the brisk plot towards a tension packed finale.

‘Crawl’ may be derivative of ‘Jaws’ in places, including lifting some of its dialogue, but its stream-lined escapism is welcome. Filled with drama, thrills and a dash of ridiculousness, it’s a swift human vs nature battle. It may put you off going into the water like ‘Jaws’ with cinema’s fierce aquatic creatures always difficult to eradicate.

Rating out of 10: 7

Child’s Play

The ‘Child’s Play’ horror film series isn’t what one would call high art. Beginning in 1988, the franchise has spawned 7 movies, this remake and an upcoming TV series. Not bad for a story focussing on a killer doll slashing its way to infamy. Having never seen any of the movies, it was a fresh experience watching the ‘Child’s Play’ redux. As silly as one would expect, its sense of fun amongst the murderous mayhem sets it apart from its more serious brethren.

When single mother Karen (Aubrey Plaza) gives her deaf son Andy (Gabriel Bateman) a robotic doll for his birthday, she thinks she’s done a good thing. Unfortunately it’s anything but with the doll, named Chucky (voiced by Mark Hamill), quickly starting a savage rampage. The bodies pile up as Chucky the evil dolly carves its way atop the bloody heap.

Going against the glut of bland recent remakes, ‘Child’s Play’ has more energy and life to it. It’s not exactly a masterpiece but it is entertaining nonsense if viewed in the right frame of mind. That it manages to have genuine tension within the screenplay is a bonus. Chucky’s wicked methods go beyond looking creepy. His skills in commanding any electrical device is used effectively as you never know when or where he’ll strike. This makes for unpredictable viewing between the body count and quips.

Lars Klevberg’s direction and brisk pacing enable ‘Child’s Play’ to maintain momentum. There are few slow spots and several genuinely scary sequences stick in the mind. The performances are serviceable despite the thinly written characters with Hamill’s delivery of Chucky’s quotes fiendishly amusing. The excellent cinematography also goes a long way in creating the constant atmosphere of dread befitting such a devilish movie.

It would have been very easy for the ‘Child’s Play’ producers to make a lazy remake. Thankfully they bring a new slant to the long-running series. It’s uncertain if this will lead to further sequels but it doesn’t do a dis-service to an enduringly ridiculous and sinister franchise.

Rating out of 10: 6