One of the horde had mentioned this creature feature to me and I had the idea that I liked the director (Alexandre Aja, Horns) so I told The Boy I was going to see it and he tagged along. AMC’s stubs ($25/month for up to three movies a week) would be a fabulous deal if AMC actually showed movies I wanted to see, but for us it’s also kind of a way to see movies we’re meh about because they’re “free”.

Harsh but fair.

This sign is more interesting than the movies playing at the AMC.

It’s a simple enough plot: Kaya Scodelario (I dunno…Maze Runner or the Clash of the Titans remake, or some crap like that) plays Haley, a college girl who swims well enough to be on the team (and get a scholarship, as we later learn). When we meet her, she loses her relay, and we flash back to her father (Barry Pepper, who was also in one of the Maze Runner movies as well as True Grit) coaching her aggressively as a child, and we quickly learn the relationship between the two.

He’s pig-headed and tough. She’s also pig-headed and tough. And they’re not talking at the moment.

This does not keep her from defying a roadblock to check on him after her more popular, likable, prettier (arguably, of course), married-with-children sister calls her up to say he’s in the path of an oncoming hurricane and not picking up his phone. When she goes to investigate his crappy condo, she finds his dog but not him. So she goes to recently sold family home where she finds him unconscious in the basement—with some highly suspicious looking teeth marks in his body.

OK, they’re not suspicious at all, they’re alligator teeth marks. (Or maybe crocodile teeth. Some member of the crocodylia order, anyway.)

You’re already kind of liking Haley, for all her pigheadedness and, let’s be honest, unwarranted pride that she is immune to hurricanes. (A lot of L.A. people think they’re immune to earthquakes *kaff* so I could relate.) And we like her even more as we realize she’s going to try to drag her unconscious dad out of the basement because it’s flooding and there’s no guarantee anyone will get to them in time.

That’s when she meets the gator in question.

What follows for the next hour or so is a game of cat-and-mouse. Or gator-and-swimmer. Or rather gator-and-swimmer-and-dad, because he wakes up. Or, really, swimmer-and-dad-versus-an-infinite-number-of-alligators, ’cause it turns out that the house is comically close to a gator farm that’s been flooded.

I mean it’s darkly comic, really, but are we going to split hairs, here? A lot of great horror has its foundation in humor gone awry.

Screenwriting 101

Amateurs save the cat. Professionals save the dog.

There’s not much more to say about this, really: It’s suspenseful. It plays its hand pretty well, we thought, overall.  You don’t want to see the principles die, which is of course not true of a lot of horror movies, and Pepper and Scoledario make for a convincing father/daughter team. When the threat ends, the movie ends, no wrap-up or filling in the dramatic blanks or nothing. Just roll credits.

In the words of the great Roger Corman: “Monster’s dead. Movie’s over.”

Still the audience was sort of shocked by this which, I think, tells you something about the attention paid to the characters on the one hand, and on the other how little deviance from established formulae the average moviegoer is expecting these days. The cinematography (by Maxime Alexandre, no relation) was good, and the score (by Max Aruj and Steffen Thum) even stood out in a few places—in a good way—which is also increasingly uncommon.

I mean, it works, so I’ll take it. Not gonna blow anyone away, but you can do far worse this season, and not much better. The Boy approved. My next well-I-gotta-go-see-something-at-AMC movie would be Annabelle Comes Home, which would end up unfortunately typifying the porridge of the year.

They're like the reptilian uncanny valley.

The cool thing about alligators is that real ones look so fake, the movie ones don’t look much different.

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