One of the best and most unpredictable horror movie directors of today is France's Alexandre Aja. Most notably, he directed the 2006 remake The Hills Have Eyes and 2008's Mirrors. But this past summer, he released Crawl- a unique disaster survival horror flick about a father and daughter (played by Barry Pepper and Kaya Scodelario respectively) surviving a hurricane while trying to not get eaten by bloodthirsty alligators. Produced by equally popular horror movie director Sam Raimi, Crawl enjoyed a ton of critical and commercial success during the summer of 2019.
More recently, Aja discussed how Crawl was developed. He said that he noticed that he didn't see a lot of similar films to the aforementioned horror movie. Because of this, Aja noticed a void that needed to be filled.
"There was Cujo and the first Alien and pretty much that’s it. It was more kind of reality-based, character-driven. I really dig the idea of a daughter saving a father. I thought it was very interesting," he explained. "Most movies that I watch, it’s always about parents saving their kids, and it’s not very often that you see kids saving their parents, and I thought that was a really interesting way into the story. But also, doing a weird home invasion movie, where instead of a killer in the house or spirits haunting the place, it’s really the element of nature coming in from outside — and with nature comes the gators, too."
But Aja knew that there were certain tropes he wanted to avoid that came from multiple other horror films. This includes 1975's classic Jaws, and as well as The Hills Have Eyes (both the original and Aja's remake). After all, relying on popular tropes too much can turn a movie into a clichéd mess.
"I couldn’t remember, even if I had seen all of them, any other alligator or croc movie that was perfect. There is no Jaws of alligator or croc pictures. So it was going to the reality of them, and making them hyper-real somehow," he added. "Watching things on the internet -- like hundreds of hours of footage of alligators and crocodiles, then selecting the moment where they are the most vicious, scary, predatory. Most of the hours you watch, alligators can be just lazy and sunbathing and not doing anything. I was not interested in that, so I made a selection of the best of the best. Same thing with the hurricanes. You can have a very hazy storm, and that would have been [visually] boring. I wanted detail. So everything was going in the direction of ‘let’s make the alligator/hurricane movie that’s hyper real,’ where we take the worst of both directions and just put them in that house."
Yet he was quick to ultimately explain his primary guiding force that ended up shaping Crawl into the successful horror movie it would become.
"This one was really following my instinct -- as much my instinct as a moviegoer as a filmmaker. It was really about, what was the movie I want to see? And I had a lot of creative freedom to build the world," Aja concluded.