Actors: Nicole Alonso, Torey Byrne, Tommy Ball, Wil Crown, David Paul Baker, Tom Chamberlain, Clayton Burgess, David Zeliff, Larry Huitt, Matthew Stephen Crabtree
Synopsis: A special forces team must bring the last sterile woman alive to safety through a series of tunnels that play home to an unstoppable alien creature.
Crawl or Die is the intellectual spawn of writer and director Oklahoma Ward (Screen, The Battle of Tinker). It's another entry into the post-apocalyptic Science Fiction library, though with one idea in mind: Crawling. It's also meant to be part of a series, a growing trend in books and underground film making today, such as the series being built around some of the characters involved in the film Slasher House. This film found its way onto store shelves in August of 2014 thanks to Through Backyard Films and Vertical Entertainment, though was quickly met with poor reception across the board. But does Crawl or Die actually wind up a misjudged hit movie-goers really should see, or is it a lifeless husk best worth sitting at the bottom of the bargain bin?
In the future, mankind is about to phase out of existence. A disease has plagued the world, sterilizing all women on the planet. There's only two left that are known to have the ability to give birth, and one of them has just died. An elite team of soldiers have been given the task to transport the last fertile woman to the safety of Earth 2. However, during the transport of this package, they are met by resistance, sending the team deep underground into a system of tunnels that acts as the lair of an insatiable creature that lies in wait for its next meal.
Tank (Nicole Alonso, Screen) and the rest of the small team is forced to crawl through a narrowing system of tunnels in hopes to outrun this creature they cannot kill. It doesn't take long for the alien beast to be introduced into the mix and start its feast, though you don't really get a glimpse of it until about half way through when Doc (Tommy Ball) must confront it to help the others escape. The creature itself winds up being a cheap spider knock-off of H.R. Geiger's design for the Alien franchise. The choice of species does end up playing a role the deeper in you get, allowing it to move faster than the humans can the tighter the pathways become.
The main issue with this concept as a whole is that, well, they're crawling through tunnels, most of the time the same one. There's very little background development as to what the virus is, and how the world came to be this way either, which would have been a nice addition to the hour plus of crawling. You don't even learn the main character's name until near the end of the film. Instead, the movie concentrates on presenting itself in a Cyber Punk world, literally throwing words at your face more often than absolutely necessary such as when Tank shouts they have to crawl, only to be cut off for a black and white filtered freeze frame and the word "CRAWL" engulfing the screen for a few seconds. Other than that, it's just a group of militarized individuals moving forward with no dialogue other than grunting and groaning, all the while you sit around just begging for the monster to pick someone off so you can see a quick murder instead of the metallic tube walls or dull grey stone walls.
There's also very little character development that you wind up not caring if most of the cast fail to make it out alive. The outcome of the film pretty much has no real meaning other than an introduction to what is planned to be a trilogy, which it painfully becomes obvious this is. The only person you'll end up giving a damn about is the Package (Torey Byrne) as she starts to trust Tank to get her out of this alive. For the most part, her lines are kept simply to the typical "I don't want to die" statements or updates on the alien's progression, but she does expand on her role on Earth 2 if she makes it. In fact, she's nothing more than a baby factory in this universe, explaining she will become impregnated, the life cycle sped up so the baby can be surgically removed early, and then almost instantly become pregnant again to repeat the cycle. But, sadly, even this isn't enough to really pull for her to survive, especially since nearly every death is foreshadowed with ten or more minutes of the creature coming, which by the way never stops making noise.
Of course, this is another of the many problems Crawl of Die has: It never shuts the hell up. Ever. If it's not something related to the score or meant to build try to build tension, it's the create constantly roaring, groaning, or eating. The noises it makes don't even sound that impressive. It sounds like poorly manipulated game sound effects from the late nineties stuck on a loop over and over again. They also rarely change volume, so the tension of it getting closer is left to visual cues, which end up being a moment of realization before the extensive wait for the inevitable. You could argue the sound effects are meant to be more of an ambient experience within the film, but given there's pretty much no variety to play on one's nerves or fear of the unknown, it only manages to induce a migraine instead of any sort of proper atmosphere.
As far as the cameras go, this film gets it right in two ways. Many of the shots utilized stick to that Cyber Punk/Science Fiction vibe nicely, even though it rarely stays on a single shot not a dramatic alien reveal longer than three seconds. It's also pretty clear that either the crew knew who the target demographic for this film was, or they were just a bunch of horny guys. While the cast themselves do a decent job at occupying time, the only two characters that actually matter are the Package and Tank. While the Package is dressed a little more respectably, Tank is basically walking around in a black tank top and matching panties (or short shorts, though I'm going more with the first than any sort of athletic gear or leisure wear, really). Given the tight conditions, there are plenty of shots that get a little too intimate with her butt, plenty of cleavage shots, and a number of moments focused on her camel toe.
Now, with all of this said, kudos definitely are in order for Torey and Nicole. These two wind up going through some of the tightest, most claustrophobic pathways you can possibly imagine. There's even one where Nicole has to lay on her back to get through an opening that seems to be almost as small as her frame. The same goes for Matthew Stephen Crabtree, who plays the alien in this movie, as well as the crew for being right there with everyone. Although it probably wasn't a problem for any of them given the view...
And that's what this film all boils down to, really. Unless you're claustrophobic yourself, Crawl or Die is simply a boring flick that panders to the male viewers (intentionally or otherwise) with plenty of up close and personal shots of the lovely ladies of this film. There's no ambience, there's no story development, and there's no pause in the sound effects or shot progression to let you digest anything. It's just a rapid fire assault of damn near nothing on the senses that gives you ten to twenty minute chunks of people crawling through tight spaces while you wait for the cue that someone is going to die in five minutes.. The worst part is that this is only the beginning, as addressed at the end when it is announced that there will be at least one more film (which is confirmed on the Facebook page, citing this as the start of a trilogy). When the behind the scenes footage and outtakes are better paced and more engaging than your actual film, a ninety minute experience that put me to sleep three times, you've clearly dropped the ball. So, unless you hate being trapped in tight corridors, Crawl or Die is just an incredibly painful film to sit through.
Review originally composed for Apoch's Metal Review.