Movie Review: ‘Crawl or Die’ – Horror in the Pipeline with a Girl

When you were a kid did you crawl through tunnels? I know I did. These tunnels are kind of like that except a monster is following you and they get smaller and smaller as you try to escape. This is horror in the pipeline with a kick-ass girl.

Horror, Sci-Fi, and Thriller never looked so good in a film. It’s been called “The Most Claustrophobic Film.” I would agree with that. For horror fans, those scares are met by the incredible performance of Nicole Alonso. The Director Oklahoma Ward has created a film that sends fear down your spine and makes it impossible to turn away. Several elements work well to make this a perfect indie horror film.

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Crawl or Die (2014)
Cast

Nicole Alonso, Torey Byrne, Tommy Ball

Directed by

Oklahoma Ward

Written by

Oklahoma Ward

Other Info

Horror, Sci-Fi, Thriller
1hr 30min

Just like rock and roll bands try to play what rocks, so horror directors try to know what scares. As long as I can remember people have said claustrophobia is one of the most universal fears. People don’t like being in an enclosed space. Crawl or Die plays on that fear and believe me, it scares!

Furthermore, the fear of unknown creatures is another fear of many and Director Oklahoma Ward weaves a really scary creature into his film. These scary aspects combined with the extreme physicality of Nicole Alonso as “Tank” make Crawl or Die a horror, sci-fi, thrill ride of a film.

A high level security force is chosen to transport the “package,” the last woman on earth that can become pregnant. The earth as we know it is gone and the continuance of humankind rests in the safe passage of this woman.

While transferring this package, the team has to find its way through a labyrinth of pipes and tunnels. As if that wasn’t bad enough, there is a hungry creature that lives in the passages, coming to feed on them.

*The rest of the review may contain minor spoilers

The star of the movie is Tank (Nicole Alonso). She plays an angry, sexy, soldier role in the manner of Avatar‘s Trudy Chacón (Michelle Rodriguez), Colombiana‘s Cataleya (Zoe Saldana), Alien‘s Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), and the like. Alonso’s physical acting is extreme. You see her pulling her own weight to and fro inside the pipes with artistry and grace. She is fun to watch and definitely easy on the eyes. At the same time, there is a determination in her eyes that builds suspense and keeps you guessing about the horror that is right behind them all.

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The creature definitely adds to the terror. In the scenes where you expect the creature to appear, Oklahoma Ward (Director) has deftly added subsonic beats that are choreographed to stop. In some of the early scenes, it seems an eternity before the creature crumbles its spider-like leg through the dirt. This works perfectly to release the scares that are not always that scary. It’s more the waiting on bated breath that creates the horror. Having said that, there are plenty of scares that send chills down your spine. It’s refreshing and remarkable what Ward and Alonso did in this film with such a simple set and formula. This is definitely a movie-makers movie as well as a critic’s film. There is much to talk about. I know I’ll be looking for an interview with the makers soon.

To expand on the “simple conventions” idea: I noticed the team used flashlights in an interesting way. They hung them on their boots as well as held them in their left hand while holding a gun in their right. I suppose when you are in a tunnel that’s getting smaller, you hold your light just about any way you can. The gun is a good thing too although it appeared that even an AK-47 assault type rifle cannot take out this monster. I’ve read online that this is to be the first film in a “Crawl or Die” trilogy. I will be eager to see how Ward uses more simplified effects to produce scares and suspense. As an independent film trying to use minimal budget and conventions to scare, I give this film a perfect score. I am a fan now and am looking forward to next one!

You can follow what’s happening with the Crawl or Die trilogy here.

10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)

“It’s just our family now. We can do whatever we want.”

10 Cloverfield is another point of view of the same situation. A woman is in a terrible car crash and wakes up in the bunker of a doomsday prepper. She thinks escape is what she wants but she has yet to find out what is actually going on outside. Minor plot spoilers ahead.

Cast
John Goodman

as Howard

Mary Elizabeth Winstead

as Michelle

John Gallagher Jr.

as Emmett

Directed by
Dan Trachtenberg
Written by
Josh Campbell, Matthew Stuecken, Damien Chazelle
Other Info

Thriller, Drama, Horror, Mystery
Rated PG-13
1h 43min

The imprisonment of someone against their will and without cause is a horrid crime. John Goodman plays Howard, the captor. Michelle is the captive and she does an amazing job acting in this film. We relate with her in her plight. Like the recent film “Room” we feel as if we are in the room with her. But I want to let you know that while a confinement theme seemed boring to me at first, there is much more going on in this thriller.

Emmett is another hapless inhabitant of Howard’s shelter. It’s underground and solid. Howard sought refuge with Howard when the disaster started happening. We aren’t told what that disaster is until later in the film. This is a mystery and half the fun is figuring out what the next part of the story is at every turn.

There’s a lot of talk on the internet about whether this is a sequel to “Cloverfield” (2008). I’ve come to my conclusions and I’ll leave it at that. I will say that I don’t think I would have enjoyed this movie as much if I knew the answer to that question so I recommend going in innocent. After you see it, you can look it up to your hearts content. Without giving you an answer, I’ll say these are two completely different movie in theme, style, and genre.

My favorite part of this movie is the character of Michelle. She makes the movie great. Second is John Goodman. If you can get over your menta block of seeing him as Dan Connor, you’ll see a serious, solid, scary, intuitive performance from him. He’s no happy-go-lucky. I enjoyed this thriller beginning to end, for all the reasons I’ve mention, it gets full 5 stars from me. I highly recommend it.

Candyman (1992)

Here we have a cult favorite with underpinnings of a low budget cheap thrill horror movie. Centered around an urban legend where if you say “Candyman” 5 times in the mirror, the characters are killed one by one. Not too cerebral but with a lot of jump scares.

Candyman

Candyman

“The Candyman, a murderous soul with a hook for a hand, is accidentally summoned to reality by a skeptic grad student researching the monster’s myth.” -IMDB

Cast

Virginia Madsen Helen Lyle
Xander Berkeley Trevor Lyle
Tony Todd The Candyman/Daniel Robitaille
Kasi Lemmons Bernadette ‘Bernie’ Walsh

Directed by

Bernard Rose

Written by

Clive Barker, Bernard Rose

Other Info

Fantasy, Horror, Thriller
R
Fri 16 Oct 1992 UTC
99min
IMDB Rating: 6.6

Kids freak out over urban legends. The idea that a chant in a mirror can summon a killer or a demon or even a product of ones imagination scares the crap out of them, Some people say we are all kids inside no matter our ages. Perhaps that is why this film has become such a cult classic.

Where I get off the bus is when Virginia Madsen’s character start researching this killer as a supernatural entity. Throughout the 90’s we had slasher films that centered on legend, I Know What You Did Last Summer comes to mind. Perhaps this film tried a bit to hard to weave a scientific basis into it. I think we’ve learned as viewers that the legend need not be explained. Of course, there is always the twist that works well.

Final Thought:
Candyman is a gore-filled jump fest that may appeal to pajama party teens. For those of us seeking to see the elements of horror, it grows tiresome wading through the cheap thrills to get to the real stuff that scares us. It’s all there though, I can’t deny that. Don’t expect a dark sense of foreboding but then again not much n the 1990’s produced that good stuff.

3/5
3 Stars

Intruders

“He WAS your friend, NOW he’s a doorstop.”

Fans of “Panic Room” may really like this one. A group of under thirtysomething males break into the protagonist’s home on a tip there is cash there. She surprises them and delivers some top-shelf girl kickass.

Intruders (2015)
Cast
Beth Riesgraf

as Anna Rook

Rory Culkin

as Dan Cooper

Jack Kesy

as J.P. Henson

Directed by
Adam Schindler

 

Written by
T.J. Cimfel
David White

 

Other Info

Drama, Horror, Thriller
Rated R
1h 30min

This is a girl kicks ass movie but there’s is another element. Madness keeps her in the house where she has remained ever “since daddy died” which we are given no exact time on. She nursed her cancer stricken adult brother in the house for years until he died and then even at his funeral she still will not leave the house. So, her madness is an extra element not always seen in “girl kickass” movies.

Beth Riesgraf plays Anna Rook, the heroine/protagonist. She is well known for her role on “Leverage” which I must admit, I now want to see more of. She’s very talent with a ton of potential. This is an excellent revenge type role but it wasn’t received well by the critics. I hope Beth Riesgraf gets roles that get her more exposure, she’s very talented. By the way, if you remember Rory Culkin from “Signs” as a child actor, he reappears in this film as the delivery guy. Buy, his look has changed.

I’d say this film is mostly a thriller and less horror that the posters promote it as. We do find out some horror elements exist like the frozen hand in the freezer and the makeshift dungeon in the basement. Still, this is a thriller with a fairly decent script that holds the viewer’s attention. It has a strong concluding scene that I fond very creative. Overall, I highly recommend it. As is my common theme lately in my reviews, you can’t always trust Rotten Tomatoes. This is a creative and fun thriller with an added mental illness factor. It spent a little too much time developing the relationship with her dying brother and I found that cumbersome. Still, I enjoyed it and highly recommend it. Now I’m off to watch “leverage.”

‘Wildlike’ – A Sleepy Hiking Film of Surprising Suspense

The indie film Wildlike is a hidden gem from 2015 that was recently added to Netflix. The director, Frank Hall Green, uses the Alaskan wilderness as backdrop for a suspenseful story. Starring in Wildlike are Bruce Greenwood (Star Trek) and Ella Purnell (Maleficent) who make this film a unique diamond in the rough.

img_9922Ella Purnell stars as Mackenzie, a 14 year old girl who’s been abandoned by her drug addicted mother. While in the care of her uncle, she is sexually abused, and flees to a nearby Alaskan hiking trail. That’s where she crosses path with Bruce Greenwood’s character, Rene.

Bruce Greenwood is the most recognizable star in the movie and he does a magnificent job trying to understand and help the troubled teen. He’s been in films as big as Star Trek and thankfully for us fans he accepted this role even though it was an independent film. The friendship between Mackenzie and Rene is fascinating and appears it could save her. Watching it develop is one of the best parts of the film though so I won’t describe it more than that.

Mackenzie is an interesting and powerful character as well. Not many of us know what it would be like as a 14 year old girl who was sexually molested. Some will say she should have told the police but others could argue the police might Bruce Greenwoodbelieve the aggressor, making a return to him inevitable. Ella Purnell dons the signature troubled-teen mascara that we see gradually reduced through the film as she begins to trust Rene. She shows us the fear involved for victims. She is a survivor and sticks close to him. Rene has profound reasons for being on the trail as well. The trail could be a metaphor that we all have our own pain to walk off. Both actors do a great job in their hiking dialog.

The suspense starts in the form of a bear on the trail and then culminates with the abusive uncle stalking Mackenzie. When Rene and the uncle finally meet, some may hope the uncle gets beaten to a pulp. They don’t show that. Instead, as with other themes in the movie, they infer it and the viewer is left to decide for her/himself.

wildlike_stillThis film has done quite well for its first time director, Frank Hall Green. It has been invited to over 75 film festivals and has won 16 Best Film awards. It’s nice to see such an understated film that allows the viewer to come to her/his own conclusions has done so well. It’s also understated and tasteful in the way that ordinarily graphic scenes like the sexual abuse is not shown but rather inferred. This is a stylistic choice of Green. By way of trivia, the IMDB page for the movie states that Frank Hall Green hiked in the exact park where the wilderness scenes were filmed and the path in the film was based on paths he and his family hiked.
I found this film a pleasant surprise. I expected a sleepy hiking film and instead got amazing outdoor cinematography with a suspenseful/thriller. I love movies that juxtapose a good story with stellar visuals. I’m reminded of Fargo as an example. Frank Hall Green is already at work on other projects but I hope a lot of people get a chance to enjoy Wildlike.