Review by Rich Cline | 3.5/5

dir Alexandre Aja
scr Michael Rasmussen, Shawn Rasmussen
prd Craig Flores, Sam Raimi, Alexandre Aja
with Kaya Scodelario, Barry Pepper, Morfydd Clark, Ross Anderson, Jose Palma, George Somner, Anson Boon, Ami Metcalf, Annamaria Serda, Tina Pribicevic, Srna Vasiljevic, Colin McFarlane
release US 12.Jul.19,
UK 23.Aug.19
19/US 1h27

scodelario pepper clark

Pepper and Scodelario with Sugar
Not much about this bonkers action thriller makes sense, but it's so much fun that it's easy to just go with it. Filmmaker Alexandre Aja knows how to freak out an audience by building suspense, adding an extreme gross-out, providing a big jolt and layering in an undercurrent of psychological tension. He throws all of this and more at this ridiculous premise, and the film is an entertaining scream.
University of Florida team swimmer Haley (Scodelario) becomes worried when her father Dave (Pepper) doesn't answer calls as Hurricane Wendy heads straight at his home. At the urging of her out-of-town sister Beth (Clark), Haley goes to check on him. She finds him injured in the crawlspace beneath the family home, where he disturbed a huge alligator. So now Haley is trapped there with him as hurricane floodwaters rise. The only person who knows she's there is Beth's old boyfriend Wayne (Anderson), but now there are swarms of gators in the water around the house.
Never mind that alligators, hurricanes and indeed Florida simply don't work like this. The film's writing and direction simply brush any pesky details aside in order to put this father and daughter in a crazy amount of peril. (Side characters never have a chance.) Shot in Serbia, Aja deploys all kids of movie trickery, using both physical models and digital gators to chase Haley, Dave and family dog Sugar around a house that's filling up with water gradually and then very suddenly. Meanwhile, looters break into the shop across the flooded road with predictable results.

Scodelario gives her all in this role, which includes just a bit of backstory in flashbacks to her daddy training her as a child to be, un-ironically, an "apex predator" swimmer. In Scodelario's searing stare, we believe she could out-swim a gator, even after being bitten a few times. She and Pepper also have a bit of fun with the daughter-father dynamic amid the general insanity, with Pepper adding some earnest emotion along the way.

Aja never lets the pace lag at all (it takes all of 10 seconds for the eye of this gigantic hurricane to pass over), throwing Haley and Dave into one outrageous situation after another. The attention to detail in each action set-piece is exhilarating (kitchen! Bathroom!), with all the gator-chomping mayhem you could ask for. And even though it's downright ludicrous, the movie is never played as a parody, homages to Jaws notwithstanding.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 19.Aug.19

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© 2019 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall