Crawl or Die (2014)

Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #385

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Also known as Alien Crawl, Crawl Bitch Crawl
Number of Views: One
Release Date: 12 August 2014 (USA)
Sub-Genre: Sci-Fi/Survival Horror
Country of Origin: United States
Running Time: 90 minutes
Director: Oklahoma Ward
Producers: Oklahoma Ward, Nicole Alonso
Screenplay: Oklahoma Ward
Special Effects: John Stirling
Cinematography: Oklahoma Ward, Craig Chartier
Editing: Oklahoma Ward
Studio: Backyard Films
Distributor: Uncork’d Entertainment
Stars: Nicole Alonso, Torey Byrne, Tommy Ball, Wil Crown, David Paul Baker, Tom Chamberlain, Clayton Burgess, David Zeliff, Larry Huitt, Matthew Stephen Crabtree

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Suggested Audio Candy

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How are you with tight, confined spaces? If they’re not your strong suit then you may want to stop reading here although, should you do so, you will be depriving yourselves of one of the most ballsy independent horror films of the past decade. Oklahoma Ward’s Crawl or Die had somehow managed to escape my attention until recently but that all changed in a heartbeat and now I aim to ensure that it is squarely on each of your radars. Speaking of which, my heart is still thumping in my chest as I scribe this. That, my beloved Grueheads, is the power of indie film-making when in the hands of someone with passion and expertise to spare.

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I’m going to get any comparisons out-of-the-way from the offset. This asphyxiating little number calls to mind, not only Ridley Scott’s majestic sci-fi masterpiece Alien, but also James Cameron’s equally splendiferous sequel. It successfully marries the very best elements of both films while also finding its very own identity in the process. If, like Keeper, the sight of hapless Dallas scuttling through the Nostromo’s ventilation shafts was enough to provoke a coronary then you’d better be keeping those defibrillator paddles handy as Crawl or Die spreads that dread taut across ninety excruciatingly tense minutes. Moreover, the threat is every bit as heinous and Ward keeps his beast on its chain admirably as he allows good old mother nature to soften its victims before the alien in question reveals its gnarly lipstick.

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I have never made secret where my allegiance lies where Aliens is concerned and, for as much as Ripley gets my motor running, I’d still rather be Gorman once the shit hits the air duct fan. I was still mourning Hudson getting dragged kicking and whining through the floor panels when Private Vasquez was so callously stolen from me. It was the old left-right combo but I felt the second blow hardest. Strong female characters have always threatened to cut off the circulation to my brain and it just so happens that Crawl or Die has itself something of a doozy.

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Nicole Alonso is Tank; one part of an elite task force saddled with the burden of locating, retrieving, and delivering a particularly critical package (an endearing Torey Byrne) to their superiors with failure an utterly inconceivable notion not in their vocabulary. This ain’t Fed Ex bitches; we’re not talking of a pair of ornate bookends which would tie your mantle together, this is the last remaining fertile woman on God’s earth we’re speaking of here. No pressure then. The future of mankind is very much in the balance and this incalculable womb is ensnared in an unfathomable tomb, hence the impetus being squarely on the crawling… post fucking haste.

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Crawl or Die starts at fever pitch as it hasn’t the time for lengthy exposition or needless characterization. End of the world anyone? That’s right; the only thing of importance here is that we recognize and militarize chop chop. Any back story is sewn up within the first five minutes which leaves another 85 or so to descend into an ever-proliferating state of panic as the air supply progressively peters out. Our rapidly diminishing survivors are left no choice than to purge deeper down the rabbit hole as they face up to the fact that any promotions are looking somewhat unlikely. It’s left to Tank to rally the troops and lead their weary bones through an increasingly suffocating assault course which constricts tighter than a camel’s asshole in a sandstorm with no inkling of safe passage, let alone promise.

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Alonso provides us with our alpha-female, replete with a military issue peroxide war stripe which is almost a secondary weapon in itself. Tank is badass in the über-extreme but there is so much more going on here than flexed biceps and washboard abs. She is afforded absolutely no breathing space from Ward’s strangulating lens, while a bulbous-headed predator complete with slobbering fangs minces about menacingly just a few clicks south and gaining ground pronto. Any chinks in her armor would be magnified if there were any but she emotes brilliantly throughout, using her entire face to relay her escalating angst and squaring up to the camera without exception.

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Ward handles his equipment beautifully and not a stone is left unturned as he slides his lethal weapon through the grime alongside and, indeed, all around our heroine using every nook, every cranny, every diminutive air pocket, to hit home her seemingly thankless plight. We are there for every inch, crawling on our bellies and gasping for precious depleting oxygen as the walls close in around us, whilst our glands wring out those last few droplets of moisture. Audio is critical here and he shows admirable restraint, populating the crawlspaces with disconcerting sound bites as opposed to pummeling our senses at every bleak turn. His audible dread achieves the required effect and it does so through admirable subtlety. That is until the blistering end credit theme Rock With Me where Nikki finally gets to workout those lungs after 90 minutes in hell’s trenches.

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By that point, should claustrophobia be an issue, then chances are you’ll be panting like a bishop in a confessional. I’m a massive fan of Neil Marshall’s The Descent and found as much in the opening forty-five to constrict me as I did once the dwellers vacated their recesses. Us vs Nature works for me and somehow, against all odds, Crawl or Die manages to feel even more insular and foreboding. A franchise beckons with both Ward and Alonso promising to court sweet madness once again in the very near future. The possibilities are infinite; with this much verve and guile on exhibit, things could be about to go somewhat loco. I know one thing for damn sure; I’ll be first in line for the next package. On your bellies Grueheads; time to get crawling.

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Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 8/10

Dread Factor: 5/5

For the Dread-Heads: It’s seconds and our welcome mat is stolen away.
All available exits are sealed and air supplies are depleting rapidly.
We traverse deeper into the mouth of the beast.
Things get tight before we know it.
Then a little tighter still.
And even more so.
Can’t breathe.

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Purchase Crawl or Die on Amazon


Read Alien Appraisal

Read Aliens Appraisal

Read The Descent Appraisal

Read Alien Raiders Appraisal

Richard Charles Stevens

Keeper of The Crimson Quill

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  1. Wow. Thank you so, so much for this amazing review. You totally got the film and what we were trying to accomplish and put it into words beautifully. Your kind thoughts about my performance and the film overall mean the world to me! Also – I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you taking the time to write this and help spread the word about CRAWL OR DIE. Indie films need all the help they can get to reach the biggest audience possible, and we couldn’t do it without the support of sites like yours. So -truly – thank you tons! You rock! #TANKarmy

  2. Thank you DEEPLY for this grand review of our film CRAWL or DIE The fan sharing and interaction is so crucial for Indie Filmmakers – and your article truly made our whole month here! It really does excite us when someone ‘gets’ on so many levels the story we were shooting to tell. Thank you. I mean that. Can’t wait to share the details on the sequel very very soon! 😉

    1. My absolute pleasure Oklahoma. Already salivating over the prospect of the sequel and still trying to replace the air in my lungs from last nights expedition. I cannot emphasize enough how astonishing the feat you have achieved with CRAWL or DIE and I know already that the future will herald great things for you both. All my very best, we’ll be right alongside you with phasers set to kill.

  3. You are so very welcome Nicole and thank you for taking the time to leave this wonderful response. Your film was like a breath of fresh meadow air, ironic when you think that oxygen was at such a premium. The pair of you deserve infinite praise for what you have achieved and you have my full support and backing. Time to rock that trilogy. The #Grueheads are in formation. #TANKArmy rages on!

  4. As an individual who cannot bear to withstand a millisecond in a closed in locale, this film left me literally GASPING for air.

    Brilliant combination of cinematography, background sounds, performances. Truly phenomenal.

    Incredible what can be achieved, when a creative spirit such as Oklahoma heads onto the playing field, sparked by an incredibly inspiring performance by Nicole Alfonso.
    I have always considered myself a very strong willed female. Nicole raises the bar, and truly inspires! TANKarmy for life, she is a future role model for girls and women everywhere.

    I am absolutely thrilled to be a part of this endeavor, with these glorious and talented individuals.

    As for the appraisal, you NAILED it, but we already knew that!

    1. Itching for that sequel. They’ve got something truly special here. Thanks to your fine self and Emilie, this popped up on my radar. So glad it did. You rock hard for fun Bill. Never change brother.

    1. Agreed my friend. I’m the same as you and claustrophobia normally isn’t something I suffer from. This is what independent filmmaking is all about. Thanks for your comments.

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