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The Most Florida Things About ‘Crawl’

A massive hurricane that leads to alligator attacks? Such a premise could be set in only one state.

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Spoiler alert

In recent years, shark movies have become a surprisingly bankable bet in Hollywood, capable of delivering solid box office returns while satiating moviegoers’ unrelenting enthusiasm for shark-on-human carnage. That trend will continue in August when the sequel to 2017’s 47 Meters Down arrives—the poor characters are still submerged at approximately 47 extremely lethal meters, but this time, the sharks are attacking via underwater caves—but Paramount Pictures provided a slight variation to the formula this past weekend. Crawl is very much in the spirit of a fun, dumb shark movie, with one crucial distinction: It’s a fun, dumb alligator movie. And as a gator flick—and one that takes place in the midst of a devastating Category 5 hurricane—there is of course only one place in which it could be set: the wonderful state of Florida.

While Crawl was filmed in, of all places, Serbia, it’s devoted to capturing the spirit of Florida—or, at least, what the internet collectively surmises to be the spirit of Florida. We tend to regard Florida in the same way we do Australia: a place with pleasant if not occasionally swampy weather and a plethora of highly dangerous animals you wouldn’t wanna cross paths with (such as gators). But Florida is also home to increasingly deadly hurricanes—shout-out climate change—and, of course, the Florida Man.

The Florida Man is not one person, but a collection of people who have had the dishonor of being reduced in a news headline to the simple descriptor “Florida man.” There is certainly a man like this for each of the 50 states in the U.S., but only the Florida Man has earned distinct renown—or, more accurately, infamy—through years of news stories detailing the bizarre, surreal, sometimes scary, other times oddly endearing crimes of Florida denizens. The Florida Man is so active—and so singular—that in March it became an internet craze to Google “Florida Man” alongside one’s birthday to find the blessedly bizarre headline of that day. And there were no days in which Florida Man disappointed. (For my birthday, the Florida Man Headline is “Florida Man Claimed to Be Surrounded by Cats and Alligators Before Being Arrested for Murder.”)

With such rich source material, Crawl gleefully luxuriates in Florida tropes. The movie will probably do for Florida tourism what Midsommar did for Sweden, but from its setting to its creatures, characters, and sensibilities, Crawl is a competent B movie that celebrates (or parodies) the wildest state in the union in many different ways. (Spoilers ahead.)

7. The Crawl Space

While the trailer for Crawl sets up the premise—a father and his estranged daughter are surrounded by vicious gators in the midst of a Category 5 hurricane—there were some Florida-specific complaints about the plot. It appeared that Crawl was mostly set within a basement, which presents a crucial issue to nitpick: Most Florida homes don’t have basements, because most houses sit at sea level.

Rest assured, Crawl avoids that problem because the main action doesn’t take place in a basement: It’s actually set in a crawl space. Along with relating to the title of the film, director Alexandre Aja told Polygon they researched Florida homes and found a lot of them contain crawl spaces—and while most are 2 to 3 feet tall, they made theirs slightly bigger so it was more accommodating for the actors. Thankfully, most crawl spaces aren’t littered with ravenous gators using a hurricane as an excuse to feast on humans, but the film does avoid a rather inelegant plot hole that most people wouldn’t think twice about. Much respect for this bit of Floridian verisimilitude.

6. The Gators

Of course, gators aren’t mutually exclusive to Florida: They can be found across the Southeast, all the way to Texas. (To say nothing of crocodiles, which are equally unpleasant and can also survive in saltwater.) But gators are quintessential Florida. Florida headlines are littered with stories about people stumbling upon gators in their swimming pools, schoolyards, and, as in the case of one particularly swole creature locals have named Godzilla, golf courses.

So unsurprisingly, there are a lot of gators in Crawl. Nobody can argue that there aren’t enough gators in this movie tearing through human flesh like strips of sashimi. And all of them are about as swole as Godzilla. For all of Crawl’s ridiculousness, the movie is very faithful to reality in this regard—even if gators don’t kill people at such an intense pace in real life.

5. The Hurricane

Like the gators, hurricanes do exist in a variety of states—but Florida often faces the brunt of such natural disasters. The state has been subjected to 11 Category 4 and three Category 5 hurricanes in its history, and is hit more frequently than any other state. Therefore, Crawl’s Category 5 hurricane—the kind of rare, cataclysmic event that forces mandatory evacuations—is a testament to Florida’s unique and unfortunate bouts with Mother Nature. Truly, only there could you face the near-impossible predicament of a rapidly flooding crawl space that is being increasingly surrounded by alligators.

4. Casual Indifference to Said Hurricane

Crawl wastes little time getting to what audiences are paying for. After her swim practice, Haley (played by Kaya Scodelario) gets a call from her older sister, who’s concerned she hasn’t heard from their dad. Haley’s sis casually suggests checking up on dad before the storm hits.

First of all, you can see the ominous hurricane slowly arriving from the swimming pool. If there’s ever a time to cancel practice, an extremely lethal, “this has happened only three times in our state’s history” type of hurricane seems like a reasonable excuse. But all the swimmers—including Haley—are pretty chill about the whole thing. And while doing so does save her father from a gruesome fate, Haley’s sister’s casual suggestion that she drive two hours in the direction of a deadly hurricane because Pops was ghosting them is just freaking wild.

But this is not exactly a departure from the Florida Way. Unfortunately, a good number of people refuse to evacuate their homes during intense storms, even in the face of genuine peril. Haley’s father wasn’t refusing to leave so much as he was being attacked by alligators, a much more solid and much more life-threatening excuse to stay at home—but everyone else’s apathy was very much on-brand.

3. Haley’s Dad

Poor Dave (Barry Pepper) was just trying to fix a drain pipe in his crawl space when he was attacked by a gator, which took a gnarly bite out of his chest and left a bone protruding from his leg. But once Haley arrives and gives him a few droplets of rain water, Dave’s back in action. The dude resets his own bone like a boss, kills one gator with the head of a shovel, and is surprisingly nimble for someone who—again!—had the cinematic equivalent of the Kevin Ware injury, plus a huge wound in his torso.

Somehow, though, things escalate even further later in the film when another gator attacks Dave, who loses one of his arms in the struggle and STILL DOES NOT DIE! The amount of visceral harm Dave suffers is almost comically over-the-top, especially since he survives the entire movie (assuming there wasn’t a Crawl post-credits scene where an emergency evacuator has to tell Haley her dad succumbed to gangrene).

Now, I know what you’re wondering: Is there a Floridian precedent to this? Well, Florida Man has killed an alligator with a shovel. And actually, this is not the first time a Florida Man has lost an arm to an alligator and survived the ordeal. Most people don’t reset their own bones, though; I just needed you to know that happened.

2. The Gas Station Looters

To accrue a body count, Crawl’s got a handful of tertiary characters who might as well be branded “MEAT”: a couple of well-meaning emergency responders, but also a trio of looters who intend to use the hurricane evacuation as a means to steal shit. (This, of course, has an IRL precedent in the state.)

Oddly reminiscent of Breaking Bad—but also of Florida Man headlines—these three characters use a tiny, beat-up boat to snag a gas station’s ATM. They confess to having no idea how to open it—but, you know, having it will make them rich. Naturally, they never come close to opening the ATM because a bunch of gators turn them into appetizers. And in a fun homage to Jaws, one of these looters is attacked from the boat and dragged to the swampy depths, Captain Quint style. Very Florida (with a hint of coastal Massachusetts).

1. Haley

Haley is the gritty, survivalist heroine of this story—probably the most capable and deliriously entertaining entry in the genre since Blake Lively fought off a great white shark in The Shallows. She is also, by far, the most Florida-y thing in Crawl:

  • Her dad, a firm proponent of her swimming career, tells her in a flashback that she’s an “apex predator.”
  • She is a swimmer at the University of Florida.
  • The University of Florida mascot is, of course, an alligator.
  • When an alligator is thrashing her torso around in what looks like a fatal attack, she naturally knows how to make it let go by poking it in the eye; she pokes it with an active flare gun (!), a method that doesn’t exactly originate in any one American state, but is cool nonetheless.
  • She is either in flip-flops or completely barefoot throughout this thing.

Haley can certainly thank Chekhov’s swimming skills for not being torn limb from limb, but she also has an innate understanding of her horrific circumstances—hurricanes plus gators plus destructive flooding. Her story would make for a very familiar headline: Florida Woman Pokes Gator in Eye While Rescuing Dad From Crawl Space in Category 5 Storm.