We're gonna be going against the grain a little bit, today. I always enjoy that, as it's general proof that I'm not just running with the masses. All in all, this one is getting pretty generous reviews, and here I sit wondering exactly why. I mean, I guess I get it, but I also don't all at once. What's that mean? Stick around to the end.
Here we have Haley (Kaya Scodelario), a competitive swimmer, who decides she wants to drive into the heart of a major hurricane, which is already wreaking a bit of havoc on her hometown. Her reasoning, to try to find her estranged father, Dave (Barry Pepper). Upon entering the house and beginning the search, we learn that Dave is still there, somewhere in the basement, trying to keep the house together, as flooding is slowly taking it apart. But while the rescue is already looking grim, a couple of alligators enter the scene, giving the pair one hell of a vicious obstacle to get past.
The alligators and the flooding house make for some good suspense, as it's a sort of "die one way, or die the other" situation. This brings to to what I can praise about the film; it knows exactly what it is, and it's not trying to be anything more. This is a throwback to that era of the late 90s when scary movies (if they weren't teen horror) relied heavily on things like disaster and nasty creatures. There was this short-lived phase of what I like to call "realisim" horror, where things we knew existed in real life could get you (which that teen horror was also a part of).
I also had to admire some of the creature effects going on here, considering the CG - I thought it looked pretty solid, myself, and I'm starting to feel like CG is REALLY hitting a positive stride, now that things are looking more realistic. And I don't mean the way we used to say things looked realistic back when 'Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within' came out. I mean... well, just watch 'Endgame'. I kinda mark it as a peak of CG technology (for now), and it seems to be carrying over to other films nicely. Beyond that, they were effective here in making these alligators pretty genuinely scary - just about anything goes with these things here.
All in all, this really wasn't bad, but I do have my gripes. The number one being the character of Haley in general. To me, she's stuck between this role of strong, independent woman and damsel in distress. There are certain things she's unsure of here, and she comes close to giving up, but manages to push forward to survive, grunting and moaning every step of the way, and while it's a total nitpick on my part, my God was it annoying. It seemed that every move Haley made was punctuated with an "URG!" or an "AGH!". But again, nitpick. You could still manage to empathize enough, and there is a nice scene where they take time to have a positive exchange between the two characters.
So I guess when I say that I get it, but don't get it all at once, it's like Raimi wanted to do a throwback to those late 90s films as his probable take on our nostalgic desires over the past decade plus. It's neat that he's considering this whole sort of untapped resource (unless your name is Roland Emerich), to try to bring it back and improve it a bit. But I can't help but be left with the question of "why", dangling above my head. That was widely regarded as a pretty weak era for film altogether. A few goodies popped up here and there, but all in all, it seemed like film was kind of in limbo. Our box office smashes were disaster movies, but they were mostly panned for being too silly, over the top, or whatever. I actually liked a few of them, but that doesn't stop what critics and even general audiences had to say about them. So, for me, this film goes against all logic from a money-making standpoint. But, to be fair, it's hanging in there pretty good - so really, what do I know? Maybe these kinds of movies were missed more than I thought.
So, I guess, if you just wanna go have a fun and violent suspenseful time at the theater, it could be worth checking out. As a Raimi fan, I think he's done better, but he's also done worse. In the end, this is gonna be one of those titles that may gather its cult following, but for the most part, it's just kinda there - not a must-see, but decent enough to sit through once, and get that bout of late 90s nostalgia. I definitely didn't love it, but it had enough things in it for me to appreciate.