A strange, foreign man is hired to kill a gas station owner over a dispute, and plans to leave town making it seem like the man who hired him did it. When this man is about to leave town, he's in an accident and has to find a new vehicle to leave in. He finds a house - the house is owned by a waitress waiting for her husband to come home, but little does she know that he was involved in said accident. As the hitman enters the house, she quickly becomes his hostage.
With a title like "Crawl", you could just as well have gotten a very typical zombie/mutant-ish film. Or maybe it's because I keep remembering that "Prowl" flick... Either way, "Crawl" ended up far from that, and actually felt less like the horror movie I thought it would be - and more like a small town thriller. Something not too far from the Coen brothers, or even in some cases Hitchcock. It takes its time to create suspense from waiting, and at the same time it manages to make mountains out of molehills. Where some movies would need a lot more action going on to fill the voids, this one uses the voids to make it more powerful.
It starts off with a foreign man entering a gas station, only to shoot the owner, Rusty, and dropping the gun. We then learn that a bar owner, Slim, hired the hitman to kill his old friend Rusty over a fight. The hitman is ready to leave knowing that the traces he left will lead the cops to Slim. But on his way out of there he hits a man with his car. This man is the boyfriend of one of Slim's waitresses. She's at home waiting for her boyfriend to come home, getting ready to be proposed to. The accident happened nearby, so when the hitman is in need of a new vehicle, their house is the closest one. He attacks the young waitress and keeps her hostage until he has a way of getting out of there. Meanwhile the cops are onto Slim.
A lot of the story is in familiar territory but even when there are clichées being shot at us, the fact that the movie is moving in a certain pace makes it seem new. This way it manages to have some suspenseful scenes by just letting us wait a lot of it out. Like how we know the man is on his way to the house, but before he's actually there the waitress is scared by small things in the house - things she has always felt in the house, such as doors creeking. So when he gets there and starts banging the door, we're already on our toes. Adding to that, she doesn't open straight away and when she does, he's gone. It's small games like that through-out the movie that made me enjoy it, even though in actuality it's not all that original.
It's not a particularly violent movie. Hell, at times it feels pretty easy-going in atmosphere, but never truly comedic (luckily). But things do go a bit crazy after a while, and I think the ending is pretty cool overall. It's not impossible that they created this movie around the final shot - it's just one of those shots that you just know was planned out. I think the end shot, and how it ends overall, is perhaps the most interesting aspect of it. It's a definite ending, but still giving a tiny bit of space for the viewer to fill. Leaving it the way they do adds to the depressing feeling, helping you soak in the acts of crimes committed.
A contributing factor to making this work is that every character is likable for what they are. Meaning, we don't think the hitman is a nice guy, but we like him as the bad guy. We don't think Slim is a charmer, but he's a likable sleazeball. You get the point. Nearly every character in this movie sticks out from the other ones, and we can sense a personality in there. It's often you watch a movie and it's obvious that the characters are just that.. characters. This might be one of the stronger parts of the movie.
If you enjoy Hitchcock thrillers, Coen brother's movies, as well as stuff like "A Simple Plan", then I think you should give this a shot. It IS a crime / thriller, but it has some solid moments of horror in there as well that would satisfy the horror fanatics. It's overall not very original, but it's the atmosphere and that it's slow that helps make this better than it should've been. I was pleasantly surprised by the whole experience!