(Blumhouse Television and Hulu have partnered for a monthly horror anthology series titled Into The Dark, set to release a full holiday-themed feature every month. Horror anthology expert Matt Donato will be tackling the series one-by-one, stacking up the entries as they become streamable.)
This is an unpopular opinion, but Blumhouse and Hulu’s Into The Dark series reached one of its pinnacles last March with Treehouse. The maddened “Ides” unleashed pissed-off brujas in an attack against toxic masculinity, which is thematically relevant once again but hardly a tonal comparison point. Brandon Zuck’s Crawlers attempts an extraterrestrial doppelganger riff that takes place during a St. Patrick’s Day bar crawl, hopeful to rattle collegiate gender horrors. Very reminiscent of Dennis Iliadis’ +1 (Plus One) in terms of using the guise of substance fogginess to cover abnormal occurrences, if a bit more dimwitted and comparable to another anemic SYFY special.
Where Uncanny Annie found success in emphasizing teen-gauged sleepover screams, Crawlers struggles to be anything more than mediocre meteorite-bred panic. Not exactly something worth toasting.
The night begins with narrator and conspiracy theorist Shauna (Giorgia Whigham) recounting Emerald Springs’ last St. Patrick’s Day “invasion.” We meet Misty (Pepi Sonuga), standing outside a college town pub while pouting over bestie’s Chloe’s (Jude Demorest) new close friendship with presumed replacement BFF Yuejin (Olivia Liang). She enters [Insert Stereotypical Irish Bar Name] and so beings a night of green-tinted alcoholic beverages, where Shauna comes into the picture as Chole’s drug dealer. It’s a mess of drinking games and leery frat dudes, but Shauna senses stranger happenings afoot. Perceptive, since aliens have begun swapping themselves out for townsfolk in an attempt to assume dominant control.
At the onset, as Shauna rants into a webcam, we’re promised “a lot of people died” this fateful fiesta evening. Unfortunately, spoken hype does not translate into the “Massacre” suggested by yet another random university’s binge-chugging marathon. It reads “Massacre” on every student’s ticket, Shauna doubles-down, and yet sci-fi action barely registers above a few stomped “alien” heads. You can tell Zuck is handcuffed when it comes to budgeting given how mass attacker numbers are only translated in off-screen growls. The camera franticly shakes side-to-side, pulls in on our heroes, and fog “clouds” any visible threats.
In terms of goo and gore, there’s a gnarly instance where Beta bro Aaron (Cameron Fuller) stomps a “Crawler” head into mucusy green mush (storytelling pulls a The Thing by needing blood samples to confirm swapped characters). Otherwise, despite barbed-wire baseball bats and sharper arsenals, there’s not much excitement despite plenty of big-talking. Crawlers tries to manufacture energy through Knife Party inspired soundtrack bass drops and promising dialogue, all just distractions from the basicness that plays out. Minimal practical effects, scant adrenaline boosts – although Zuck’s production hopes by the luck o’ the Irish you won’t notice.
Even the name Crawlers makes minimal sense, given how we never go underground or see things…er…crawl? Aliens are all in human form, as transformations are just a bone-crunch sound before another human appears. “In the 70s, an asteroid landed that carried microorganisms and now they’re grown…blah blah blah…radiation weed…yadda yadda.” Scripting fails over and over to develop anything we’ve yet to see in this otherworldly subgenre. That’s not to say Into The Dark has been redefining horror cinema segment by segment, or at all, but Crawl is on par with something like School Spirit that feels like yet another rudimentary sleepwalk through basic horror motions. The shotgun hoarder mama “babbling” local myths, a too-cool aesthetic washover, weak attempts at red-herring dodginess? You’ve seen this far too many times.
Even the film’s attempted addressing of campus sexual harassment lacks impact, given how Misty’s experiences seem added just for resonating current events. It’s (valid) commentary with the expansion of a Twitter thread, shoehorned to define Aaron’s affiliation to accused rapists while simultaneously proving he’s a good guy? An odd character development choice that never quite pays off, given how the story itself only remembers this decided-upon direction in choice moments.
I’ve been an advocate for multiple Into The Dark segments right here on /Film, but when friends and followers confess they haven’t clicked “play” on a single entry yet, it’s hard to challenge their hesitation with something like Crawlers available. The idea of a horror anthology comprised completely of feature films, streamable at all times, should be a dream for genre lovers. Alas, titles like Crawlers don’t reach as far as viewers deserve. Lows are expected in any anthology that spans 90ish minutes altogether, but the downs are felt so much harder when every entry is 90ish minutes itself. Crawlers stings like a sonofagun in that regard.
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