Review: Crawl or Die

Another movie I watched on a whim, this time on Hulu Plus. Crawl or Die is a horror/sci-fi movie about…well, here’s the brief plot summary from Hulu:

A deadly virus has rendered all women infertile, all but one. Forced underground, the elite soldiers tasked with bringing this woman to safety find themselves crawling for survival from a bloodthirsty creature in a maze of ever shrinking tunnels.

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What piqued my interest was the “maze of ever shrinking tunnels” part. It sounded like an intriguing premise, and a chance for some very cool, and different, visuals. And on that point, the movie delivered. Did it ever. Several pull quotes describe it as “the most claustrophobic movie ever made,” and that is no exaggeration. In fact, if you’re even mildly claustrophobic, you probably won’t be able to make it through this film. The first metal tube the characters have to crawl through at the beginning of the movie is oppressive enough that I was thinking to myself just how far will they be able to push this “ever shrinking tunnels” conceit?

As it turns out, a lot.

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By the end of the movie, our tough-as-nails, punk-haired, elite soldier Tank (played by Nicole Alonso) is practically buried in a dirt shaft smaller than her torso, forced to push and shove her way through sheer will power. I actually felt bad for the actors, because you can’t help but think how physically and psychologically grueling of a shoot this must have been. You will feel your chest tighten, your breathing become labored, while watching this thing.

Unfortunately, that’s all the movie has going for it. It’s literally an hour and a half of people crawling through tunnels.

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It’s a one-trick pony.

All the stuff about “last fertile woman in the world” and colonizing “Earth 2” in the couple minute flashback scene setting up the movie’s narrative is just a cheap setup. A MacGuffin. There’s no payoff on any of the sci-fi elements hinted at, no character development, no world building, no explanations whatsoever for the existence of the tunnels, the alien creature hunting them, etc.

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Which brings up the second area of disappointment in the filmmakers: the complete and utter lack of originality in the creature design. Here was a chance for a cool, creepy alien evolved specifically for crawling through narrow spaces. They could have taken design queues from various burrowing insects or animals. Instead, we get a direct H.R. Giger Alien rip-off, complete with an eyeless, elongated head, segmented tail, black in color, dripping ooze, etc.

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There’s not much to say about the acting, since there’s not much of it. I did like the casting choice for the lead character, Tank. Nicole Alonso isn’t your typical Hollywood waif. She actually has some muscle definition and a (somewhat) more realistic body type, making her more believable as a bad-ass soldier. She also carries the attitude well, and even manages to show some vulnerability in a few scenes.

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Writer/Director/Editor Oklahoma Ward has definitely crafted a unique film, unlike 99% of the indie horror flicks out there. Too bad it’s so incredibly light on plot and character, relying solely on a single visual motif to carry the entire film.

Which, you know, could entirely be your cup of tea, but personally I found it boring as hell once the novelty wore off.

Anyway, here’s the movie’s official website.

And here’s the trailer: