Today marks the release of Crawl, the brutal, wet (seriously, there’s a lot of water involved), and wild alligator horror movie from Piranha 3D director Alexandre Aja. And the most surprising thing about this schlocky B-movie — which stars Barry Pepper and Kaya Scodelario as a father-daughter duo trying to escape their old home’s flooding, gator-infested crawl space during a hurricane — is that it’s much better than it has any right to be.
In fact, Crawl is so good that we think it’s better than this summer’s other reptile monster movie, Godzilla: King of the Monsters. Here are four reasons why.
1. It’s self-aware
One of the most important things for any low-budget horror movie with a silly premise (like “what if Jaws but with an alligator?”) is to be conscious of its own silliness. Crawl is at least mildly, if not acutely, aware that it is silly, and benefits from it. Because the movie knows what it is, audiences are more willing to suspend their disbelief, otherwise eye-roll-inducing lines like “I’m an apex predator all day!” invoke laughter and cheers, and mediocre-looking CGI alligators are still a terrifying threat.
King of the Monsters, on the other hand, fails to recognize that it’s a big dumb movie about giant monsters fighting each other. With dozens of minutes of self-serious debate over whether or not to unleash the Titans, the movie is an unfocused slog.
2. Critics love it
Case in point: Crawl is currently sitting at a very healthy 88% on Rotten Tomatoes, whereas King of the Monsters (which EW gave a C-) has stabilized at 41%.
3. There’s an adorable dog
As with any great movie, Crawl has a dog. Sugar, Scodelario’s trusty, scruffy, adorable pet companion, gets a fair share of screen time, and to the movie’s credit [SPOILER ALERT], the pooch lives to tell the tale. Crawl understands the sanctity of the lives of our furry friends, so much so that the movie’s Twitter account posted a photo of Sugar with the caption: “#1 Rule: Always save the dog.” Thank you, Crawl.
Alas, King of the Monsters features exactly zero dogs, and tragically sacrifices Mothra, Queen of the Monsters. (The latter even prompted a series of tweets with the hashtag #MothraInnocent.)
4. It’s short, simple, and suspenseful
Finally, Crawl boasts tight 87-minute runtime. It gets in and gets out before overstaying its welcome, and cleanly executes its premise by delivering teeth-grinding tension and gore without relying too heavily on cheap jump scares. King of the Monsters, however, is a bloated 132 minutes long, and gets so bogged down in its convoluted plot that even the monster fights become a chore to sit through. Don’t get us wrong, Godzilla is a far superior reptile monster than Crawl’s alligators in terms of size, look, and pure grit — it just so happens that Crawl is a far superior movie.