Your basic stuck-in-a-basement-in-a-hurricane-with-gators movie, and suitably suspenseful within contemporary limitations. In Florida, played by Serbia, not-quite-a-champion swimmer Haley (Kaya Scodelario) has to drive into an evacuated area because her self-pitying divorced Dad (Barry Pepper) hasn’t fled the old homestead … and finds him trapped in a slowly-flooding crawlspace with a broken leg and a chewed shoulder (more injuries will be sustained) and besieged by a family of alligators that have done a better job of staying together in extreme circumstances than the tiny human cast. A few looters and some cops show up to get the requisite bloody chomping in, but most of the film stays with the two main characters – and Sugar the Probably Invincible Dog – as their peril gets worse and worse, and they show more and more determination to make it through no matter how chewed they are.
Scripted by Michael and Shawn Rasmussen (The Ward) and directed by Alexandre Aja – breaking his run of remakes with an ‘original’ – this works well, though I miss the actual regional flavour and beastie-wrangling flair of comparable grindhouse items like Squirm or Kingdom of the Spiders. This has a very locked-down, contemporary American sense of the selfishness of a broken family, with rote character business based on sports metaphors – Dad was his daughter’s swim coach – and a clinging to home even as it’s washed away when the levee breaks. It’s sweet enough, but lacks the touch of lunacy found in comparable efforts like Lake Placid or the tiger-in-a-hurricane picture Burning Bright.