New flick from director Alexandre Aja (Haute Tension, Piranha 3D) and producer Sam Raimi is basically 2010’s Burning Bright with alligators instead of a tiger…and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Flick has massive category 5 hurricane Wendy hitting Florida so hard even rescue operations are imperiled. College student Haley Keller (Kaya Scodelario) defies evacuation orders to track down her father Dave (Barry Pepper), who hasn’t answered texts or calls. She finds him at their old family house unconscious in the basement and soon finds out why…the rapidly flooding house is surrounded by a pack of very hungry alligators.
Aja directs from a script by Michael and Shawn Rasmussen (The Ward) and delivers a fun and sometimes intense thriller. We follow the father and daughter as they try to evade the reptilian predators both inside and outside, while the storm intensifies around them and slowly fills the house with water. There are some very suspenseful moments as Haley tries to get out of the basement and get help for her injured father, who is too hurt to escape on his own. It makes for some very tense moments as the vicious reptiles can come from almost anywhere and often do. In case we’ve forgotten what damage a gator can inflict, some would-be looters and a couple of cops arrive to become gory gator fodder to remind us. The film does slow down for a few moments here and there to give us some character development and some father/daughter bonding. It works both for and against the movie, as it does build a nice relationship between Haley and David, turning them into three dimensional characters, but also stops the momentum dead, at times, as the alligators seem to disappear during these moments. Once the third act kicks in, though, it’s all cat and mouse between Kellers and alligators as the waters rise in the gators’ advantage. Here Aja does what he does best and provides some intense and brutal action. The film looks great with a lot of underwater photography in the flooded house and Haley is put through some very tense and suspenseful set-pieces as she tries to escape and/or save her dad. A fun summer flick with some gory bite that doesn’t overstay it’s welcome at a brisk 87 minutes.
It’s basically a two character show with the occasional gator snack showing up. Actress Kaya Scodelario has been through this before in Tiger House, where she played John McLane to a bunch of thieves that lay siege to her boyfriend’s house. Her Haley is courageous and resilient and does just as well against alligators as her Kelly did against home invaders. Scodelario proves she is not only a good actress, who can bring intensity, but she can kick ass as an action heroine. She gives Haley some nice depth in the quieter moments between scenes of her battling her reptilian adversaries with anything and everything available. Barry Pepper is also solid as her father, Dave. His character is both mourning a divorce and injured by gator bite and Pepper gives him some depth, so we feel for him. The two actors have a nice on-screen chemistry and work very well together portraying a father and daughter, who have their issues with each other. Good casting especially since the movie is very much on their shoulders.
Alexandre Aja is a versatile filmmaker even though he does seem to prefer the horror genre. This flick is not as intense or savage as his Hills Have Eyes remake, or outright bonkers like his ridiculously gory and fun Piranha 3D. It’s a mainstream thriller with some intense moments and some gory action, but not enough to scare off the casual movie goer. It does slow down for some character development and while that’s a good thing in making us care for these folks, it does kill the momentum in a few spots. Otherwise this is a tense and entertaining popcorn thriller from a director who knows intensity.
On a side note…This is a case of the trailer giving away too many good moments. If you plan to see this and haven’t watched the trailer yet…DON’T!
For those interested but be WARNED, trailer is SPOILER heavy…