OCTOBER 15, 2011
SOURCE: THEATRICAL (FESTIVAL SCREENING)
Not every movie has to be rewatchable in order to be considered good/great. There’s nothing wrong with seeing a film and loving it but not having the desire to see it again, especially when they are built around suspense, toying with the audience’s expectations of what will happen next. Crawl is one such film; for 90 minutes I was pretty captivated by the on-screen action, having no idea where the story might go next, and that is the movie’s best asset. There’s no complicated story to piece together or “highlight” scenes to revisit on their own like, say, the Michael vs Laurie showdown in H20 (skipping the mostly interminable hour before it), but for that initial, in the dark viewing, it works like gangbusters.
As such, I’ll have to keep this one vague (read: short! Everyone wins!), because spoiling too much would be extremely detrimental, and I advise you to go in as blind as possible when the opportunity to check it out comes your way. I will say that it sort of transplants an Anton Chigurh-esque character into a home invasion thriller, and leave it at that in terms of story.
As that nameless character, George Shevtsov is one of those actors that will make you wonder why he hasn’t been in the spotlight sooner (he’s been around for over 20 years), managing to make the guy likable even though he barely speaks and is a cold blooded murderer. His kindly face and hilarious fixation on his appearance (bleeding from a car crash, he stops to put his hat back on) are hilariously at odds with his behavior, and his methodical, two-steps ahead actions when he needs to spring into action are wholly impressive (after watching Sector 7 again last night, maybe I can just appreciate a villain that’s not a total klutz – that goddamn monster gets tripped up more than Ghostface).
On the other side of the movie’s “war” is Georgina Haig as Marilyn Burns (cute), playing the sort of character who you instantly love and know she will kick all sorts of ass when required. The movie’s nearly real-time approach doesn’t give her too much in terms of backstory, but what little we do learn is enough to know she is worth caring about, and even though the movie doesn’t get into it too much, you will really feel the tragedy at the center of the film due to the fact that she doesn’t deserve it. And the lack of cynicism is much appreciated (SPOILER AHEAD – sorry, gotta write something here); she knows her boyfriend “needs to talk” and thus assumes he is going to propose – a lesser film would twist the knife a bit by having her go through an ordeal and then discover he actually planned to break up with her or something, but as we learn early on, her assumption was correct.
Of course the movie could be a shot of a log on the road for all I care, as long as it still had the terrific Herrmann-esque score by Christopher Gordon. How good was this score? I sat in the theater like an idiot tapping it out on my legs during the end credits, that’s how good. And it’s even more impressive when you consider that the eerie QUIET of the film is its other strength, with several nailbiter bits milked for every second of potential suspense and often set to the sounds of absolutely nothing. There’s a wonderful bit with our two leads on opposite sides of a door, waiting for the other to make the slightest sound and give their position away – masterful stuff. I don’t often compare anything to Halloween in a positive way, but the two films have filmmakers that are clearly relishing in their power over the audience, stretching the tension of a moment as long as possible before releasing in satisfying ways.
If the film has one flaw, it’s a silly, pace-breaking scene where Haig’s boss engages in some sexually charged spanking of one of the other employees who apparently owes him money. The film as a whole has a Coen-esque vibe to it (in addition to Chigurh, Blood Simple seems to have been on their mind, and a minor subplot about a stolen gun wouldn’t feel out of place in Fargo), but this bit just doesn’t really fit with the rest of the movie and doesn’t really further the plot along any. I guess it provides the film with another explanation for its title while offering some sort of visual dichotomy between the Stranger and the lowlife boss, but I don’t think it was necessary – we already knew the guy was a dickhead, and the girl getting spanked never appears again in the movie anyway, so there’s no need to further explore her character.
Still, one misstep in an otherwise solid thriller is hardly damnable, even if the film was from a veteran. And thus it’s almost unfair to point it out for a first time filmmaker (Paul China) who has delivered something this assured. Hell, according to the IMDb he doesn’t even have as much as a short under his belt, so to come out of the woodwork with something that works this well is nothing short of incredible. Even Carpenter had to goof around with Dark Star before finding his footing with Assault on Precinct 13, and the Coens worked in various fields (Joel was an editor on Evil Dead, for example) before Blood Simple. China has hit a homerun in his first at-bat, and I eagerly await to see what he does next.
Now, someone get me that soundtrack!
What say you?