The Shallows, Piranha 3D, 47 Meters Down, The Meg -- what would the summer movie season be without a water-based creature feature? These unapologetic B-movies invite audiences to have some excitement mixed with a dose of humor, or at least a tacit acknowledgement that they're preposterous. For 2019, we have Crawl. I don't know about you, but this is exactly the kind of crazy escapism I'm in the mood for during the hottest months of the year.

The Maze Runner's Kaya Scodelario plays Haley, a college student who's on her school's swim team. One day after a meet, she receives a worried call from her sister, who hasn't heard from their father Dave (Barry Pepper) for a while. Despite being largely estranged from him, Haley drives to his house to make sure he's okay because a Category 5 hurricane is just beginning to hit.

She finds him critically injured beneath the crawlspace of his home. And there are alligators down there too. Massive ones! The hurricane starts dumping rain, causing the space to flood. Haley and Dave have to figure out how to escape before drowning or getting eaten.

One should not approach a movie like Crawl expecting anything other than what it delivers, namely a lot of intense alligator action. The premise may be a bit absurd, but director Alexandre Aja milks it for all its worth. Haley and Dave repeatedly have to dodge the creatures, which pop out of the water, jaws wide open, when you least expect it. Some of the folks who try to help them aren't so lucky, leading to gloriously gory kills. The film absolutely gives you your money's worth in terms of alligator attacks. Bite marks are inflicted, limbs are torn off, and body parts are left floating.

If those scenes don't get you, the near-drowning stuff will. Visual and practical effects used to create the hurricane/flooding are very realistic. It really does look like the production filmed in a real storm, even though they obviously didn't. As the water gets higher, the characters rapidly run out of safe space. Objects being washed away under the surface become an added obstacle.

Character development here is minimal, and this is one of those films that has a situation more than a plot. For a B-movie, that can be okay, so long as it delivers the goods, which Crawl absolutely does. Scodelario is likable, the gators are scary, and the thrills are virtually non-stop. No effort is made to give viewers anything other than what they came for. You want gator carnage? You got it! You want deep themes and fully fleshed-out people to follow? Well, Midsommar is playing in another auditorium.

Running a lean 87 minutes, the bloody, fast-paced Crawl is never going to be added to the Criterion Collection. The movie is, however, exploitation fare of the highest order.

out of four

Crawl is rated R for bloody creature violence, and brief language. The running time is 1 hour and 27 minutes.