Like 2016’s “The Shallows”, Alexandre Aja’s new disaster horror film features a strong, charming female lead who will go up against a horrific force of nature (trade the shark for a pissed off alligator protecting it’s natural habitat). Also swap Blake Lively for the equally adroit Kaya Scodelario (“The Maze Runner” trilogy). Produced by Sam Raimi, who created the classic “Evil Dead” film series, he also directed “Darkman”, “A Simple Plan” and “Oz the Great and Powerful”. While the storyline credited to writers Michael and Shawn Rasmussen has a been there, done that feel, it is still engaging, throws you off balance and builds a tight sense of dread. Just enough to keep you wondering how our heroine will get out of the next peril washed her way.
As a Category 5 hurricane lays waste to Florida, Haley (Scodelario) decides to go looking for her missing father (Barry Pepper, “Saving Private Ryan”), who won’t answer his phone. As the trailer reveals, they become trapped in the basement of their home, and as the storm makes the waters rise, it reveals that a very angry alligator has come home to make a nest. I won’t reveal any more spoilers, as films like this contain twists that must be experienced by their audiences to enjoy the full effect. I will tell you, the story kept me engaged and rooting for Haley, who happens to be a university swimmer. The CGI effects are top-notch and the alligator effects are frightening and made me jump several times. The true test of a great thriller, no doubt. I won’t call this the next classic, like “Jaws” or “Jurassic Park”, but if you are looking for a fun disaster, I’m-trapped-with-a-monster thriller (my favorite kind), you can’t go wrong with this one.
For me, “The Shallows” was just as much fun to watch and “47 Meters Down” (2017) is the best of the three. That one really creeped me out and is the most believable. Alexandre Aja also directed “High Tension”, the scary “The Hills Have Eyes” remake and the abysmal “Piranha 3D” flop. This may be one of his most accessible and mainstream movies. I credit him and Sam Raimi for not making this film work too hard. It has jumped into the deep end and is ready to drag its audience down with it, kicking and screaming. Everyone in the pool! (3.5 out of 5 stars.)