When leaving the theater after seeing this film, some guys had mentioned Sharknado (2013). I understand the reference that some might make to that modern-day camp classic. The tone of this film, directed by Alexandre Aja (Piranha 3D), is less campy and more in-line with horror films or creature features like The Shallows (2016) or 47 Meters Down (2017). Instead of being about sharks, this film is about aggressive alligators. In that, it could draw comparisons more to Lake Placid (1999), except the tone in that 1999 flick felt more leaning toward camp. I suppose this film could be accused of being campy in how over-the-top it gets. It seems as though Aja does try to keep things somewhat grounded and earnest, no intentional humor. I even got echoes to Jurassic Park (1993) but again with less humor, as well as a more gory and grimy version of The Birds (1963).
Comparing it to Alfred Hitchcock and Steven Spielberg is high praise. I don’t want to give the impression that this film is as good as either of those aforementioned classics. It’s simply that certain moments within this film made me think of either Jurassic Park or The Birds. I’m not sure if Aja was specifically trying to reference those films. The fact that his film is about animals attacking humans probably breeds allusions that are unavoidable. The characterization isn’t as good here as in Hitchcock and Spielberg’s films. The sense of wonder isn’t as good here as in those classic films. Aja’s film, though, does have good thrills and sufficient action. It also doesn’t take long to kick into gear as well, so it makes for a fun, summer ride.
Kaya Scodelario (Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales and The Maze Runner) stars as Haley, a young woman who is on the swim team at the University of Florida in Gainsville. She has a sister and a single father. She blames herself for her parents splitting up. She’s also not in a good head-space after losing a swim race. When she gets a call from her sister saying that her dad hasn’t been answering any phone calls or texts, Haley decides to drive to her father’s house to look for him. What’s complicating things is the arrival of a Category-5 hurricane. Not only does she have to brave the high wind and flooding but she also has to brave an influx of large alligators that the storm has brought, which makes this not Sharknado, but “Alligator-cane.”
Written by Michael and Shawn Rasmussen, it’s fortuitous that Haley is an athletic and competitive swimmer. It ends up being a contrivance that helps to explain her ability to do things in the water and under it when the time comes for her to be a survivor or even a hero. I suppose it wouldn’t have been believable to have her come out the other side of this scenario if she weren’t a competitive swimmer. It’s probably a reinforcement of a type of Darwinian idea of the survival of the fittest. The Rasmussens’ script also plays with the clever idea of what if alligators invaded your house and trapped you inside. It’s a more crazy kind of home invasion film that might seem ridiculous, but the script makes it feel a bit plausible. It also plays with the concept of claustrophobia in cool ways.
Barry Pepper (The Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials and Saving Private Ryan) co-stars as Dave, the father to Haley. He’s trapped in the house with Haley and the angry alligators. He’s more injured and is the so-called damsel-in-distress that Haley has to rescue. He’s also a source of encouragement for her. He’s good as the gruff, paternal figure.
Rated R for bloody creature violence and brief language.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 27 mins.