Directed by Alexandre Aja
Starring: Kaya Scoldelario, Barry Pepper
Runtime: 87 Minutes
This week I went in almost completely blind to the film. I hadn’t seen any trailers or heard much about it. I knew two things. There would be a hurricane and there would be alligators. What I didn’t expect was for it to be SO GOOD. I wouldn’t classify it as a “horror” film, more along the lines of the thriller or survival genre. I expected a knock-off of the cult-classic Anaconda. Incredibly cheesy yet fun. What was experienced this week was a LOT OF FUN and, I realized I should probably stock up on flares and a hand-crank flashlight.
Onto the film.
We open with classic ominous music setting the tone for what is to come. We then cut to the University of Florida in Gainesville. Our heroine is named Haley Keller (Scoldelario) and she’s on the swim team. Let’s stop just for a second. I immediately thought her being a swimmer would somehow save the day. Not terrible, but it seems like in most films like this the hero has some special ability that ALWAYS comes into play in the end. This may or may not have, but I did immediately think of this. We see flashbacks of her as a young child with her father Dave Keller (Pepper) as her coach. His advice is simple. “You lost. Don’t cry and you’ll get them next time.” We then hear that she should be the Apex predator. (Akin to having the hammer, being the alpha dog and never giving up.)
We learn that Hurricane Wendy (Category 5) is coming towards Florida. There are mandatory evacuations being ordered for the coasts and if you don’t leave no one will be able to come for you. Haley hears from her sister that no one can get ahold of their father. The mom is off with prince charming in Paris. (There’s always a prince charming.) Haley says she’ll go down and see what’s going on against the wishes of her sister. On her way to her father, the rain is really coming down. I immediately noticed the effects used and was pleasantly surprised by how real it all looked. We learn that Dave Keller (Pepper) has been working on their childhood home to sell. I will only give this away; she finds him and he’s “stuck” because not only is the town going underwater but there are alligators. I’m talking BIG gators and they are angry. Like Adam Sandler’s Bobby Boucher says in The Waterboy (1998) “Mama says that alligators are ornery because they got all them teeth but no toothbrush.” We definitely see their teeth in action.
This is where the film takes off. It turns into a survival film and the close quarters of the home make for many claustrophobic moments. There are several scenes where the camera work takes is inside tight rooms with rising water and helped add tension with the lurking predators. (Nice work) This film at times was reminiscent of Jaws. I know that’s a giant compliment but there’s a scene in particular reminding me of when “We’re gonna need a bigger boat.” I will warn you. There are MANY jump scares. The first being a tree through the window, it came out of nowhere and got the heart-racing for most of the film. I’ve watched several horror/thrillers since I started writing this column in March, and I think this one had me jumping the most. Considering I was expecting a cheesy movie you’d see on television I was impressed and relieved. The intensity in this film rises as the water levels from the flooding, it really looks like there’s no end in sight.
This film isn’t perfect. There are several moments of BAD foreshadowing. Most films may do it, but this one screams at you when it’s happening. Close up of a shovel. I bet the shovel gets used. It does. Close up of a screwdriver. Same deal. Not terrible but a tad annoying. Also, the alligators, they were hit and miss. Obviously, the film wants them to be menacing and they are, but at times they look fake. It was strange to me, when you see them swimming through the water it’s as if there are real alligators being used. Yet there are some shots that look extremely fake that will take you out of the film if only for a split second. Those two minor issues don’t take away from the excitement this film brings and the two leads. Both Scoldelario and Pepper (you’ll remember him as the sniper from Saving Private Ryan) were excellent. You really feel their bond and strained relationship and I was pulling for them both the entire time. At the same time, it feels like any moment any character could become gator bait. The dread was real. Go see this film. Get out of this crazy heat and enjoy a fun summer flick. You will probably not want to go anywhere near Florida or a swamp but it’s fun. I’ll be on the lookout for a good deal on flares and hand-crank flashlights. 4 stars out of 5. #SHOPLOCAL
Andrew McManus is Operations Manager for Patties & Pints and its parent company Eflow Development.He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 740-981-9158