I entered the screening of Crawl at Glasgow Frightfest with a tremendous tension in my jaw, like a wound spring, a remnant of my annoyance at having just sat through Tape 407. I was looking forward to Crawl immensely and I fear, had it not lived up to my expectations, I may have called an end to my Friday Frightfest adventure and left it all in the hands of Milton, Shengis and Tash.
So thank God for the China Brothers as Crawl turned out to be everything I hoped it would be and a little bit more.
The story of Crawl revolves around three characters, crooked bar owner and “entrepinour” (this is NOT a mistake) Slim Walding, pretty barmaid Marilyn Burns and an Eastern European hitman in cowboy duds known simply as “The Croatian”.
Things take a turn for the worst when Slim pays the sinister Croatian to off a local garage owner over a business deal that has turned sour. The Croat killer does as required but attempts to double cross the sweaty, drunken publican. Meanwhile, Marilyn patiently awaits the return of her boyfriend Travis, hoping that with his arrival will come a long-awaited marriage proposal.
However, her night is about to be ruined by the arrival of an unexpected guest…
That’s the abridged version but to tell the truth, there isn’t that much more to the story and that is far from detrimental to the film, rather it works to its credit. There is very little unnecessary exposition, in fact Crawl has entire sections that are completely devoid of dialogue, instead using the silence as a means to build tension, something that director Paul China does very well indeed.
The China Brothers first feature film is nothing short of a triumph. It’s a film absolutely drenched in suspense, the kind of suspense that Hitchcock or Polanski would approve of.
The cast are all excellent. Georgina Haig is wonderful as Marilyn (her name, a nod to Texas Chainsaw Massacre‘s lead actress) while Paul Holmes is absolutely hilarious as Slim, the scene involving his “game” with Lauren Dillon’s Holly being particularly fun. If they handed out awards for best accident victim, Andy Barclay would win hands down for his portrayal of the hapless Travis.
It’s George Shevtsov who steals the show as The Croatian. Completely deadpan and toothpick thin, but with a strange playfulness to his eyes, Shevtsov glides across the screen, a picture of calm and even in his…nastier…moments, barely shows a single flicker of emotion.
Crawl absolutely shattered my perception of what is possible on a low budget. You can see every penny spent here. You can see how far the budget has gone and it looks all the better for it. It’s a very well made film. It looks fantastic and every scene is permeated with a real undercurrent of impending dread.
I also want to make mention of Christopher Gordon’s score. Plinking piano and ominous chords are the order of the day and Gordon does a masterful job of matching the tone of the film precisely. I’s do go far as to say that I’d imagine that if you listened to the score alone, you would be able to follow where the film was going without ever seeing it. It’s that effective.
China’s film further cements Australia’s growing reputation for producing quality genre films. I’d go so far as to say that Crawl is light years ahead of most horror films emerging from the UK and US, both in terms of technical achievement and atmosphere. It does not disappoint. One of my top films of 2012, so far.