Studio: Uncork’d Entertainment
Director: Oklahoma Ward
Writer: Oklahoma Ward
Producer: Oklahoma Ward, Shirley Ward, Homer K. Ward, Nicole Alonso
Stars: Nicole Alonso, Torey Byrne, Tommy Ball, Wil Crown, David Paul Baker, Tom Chamberlain, Clayton Burgess, David Zeliff, Larry Huitt, Matthew Crabtree
A Special Forces team escorting the last fertile human female to safety faces a fearsome breed of alien creature inside a labyrinthine tunnel system.
When an unstoppable virus renders all human females infertile, it falls to a top tier Special Forces unit to safely escort the last remaining woman capable of bearing children off the planet. A four-year project to make another world habitable and to create new life through this woman has become the only way that the human race can avoid extinction. With mankind’s last hope for survival on the line, these soldiers must endure a seven-month space voyage in cryosleep and deliver their package to Earth 2 alive. What they don’t know is that a savage species of alien creature comprises their welcoming party upon arrival.
All of the above sounds like every building block necessary for creating a dystopian vision of a bleak sci-fi future, no? Or rather, it could have been. Instead of indulging in film as a visual storytelling medium, all of the above is only relayed to the audience via dialogue delivered in close-up by an actor having a hard time spitting out lines with anything resembling a rhythm. This general’s “elite” team of soldiers seems better suited for lugging amplifiers as a heavy metal band’s road crew, with maybe a collective ten minutes of actual tactical training logged among the motley lot of them. Their mission briefing takes place in a room that suspiciously resembles the wings of an unfinished soundstage with exposed 2x4 beams and circular ducts on raised supports that are almost certainly the same ones filmed later for interior tunnel sequences.
You see, “Crawl or Die” is the sort of homegrown effort where the director’s name appears 11 times for a total of 13 credits in the end scroll (the unseen spaceship also bears his moniker), and three of the four producers share a surname. Not that there is anything inherently wrong with tapping friends, family, and associated checkbooks to patch together a multi-hat-wearing crew and a breadcrumb budget. It is merely that “Crawl or Die” only possesses the DNA to birth a certain level of quality as a motion picture, and what it wants to be is not in synch with such lean capabilities.
Far be it from me, or anyone for that matter, to discourage enthusiastic filmmakers from pursuing high aim ambitions. But desire, good intentions, and loose change scrabbled together from acquaintances and well-wishers are not enough ingredients to make a project with this scope cook. The reality is, if all a chef has to work with is salt, pepper, and day old dough, s/he doesn’t try baking a Michelin-caliber soufflé. As simple a goal as crafting a poor man’s “Alien” might be in theory, it is still a much bigger bite than “Crawl or Die” has the teeth to chew.
“Crawl or Die” opens on a confusing firefight comprised of quick cuts and loud noises designed to distract from the location of someone’s darkened backyard standing in for an alien planet. The Special Forces unit is introduced mid-mission and in almost pitch blackness, making it nigh impossible to count how many people are even in the squad, much less get to know them as individuals. Although with names like “Doc” for the medical officer and “Sniper” for the marksman, the movie isn’t putting forth much of a creative effort to establish any meaningful attachment to their personalities, or lack thereof.
For men and women attracted to tough girl chic, lead actress Nicole Alonso exudes gritty sex appeal in spades, with partial credit due to an improbable wardrobe of go-go boots and booty shorts impractical as military issue, yet perfectly complementary to a platinum Mohawk and grime-stained physique. What she doesn’t have is a script affording her much to say beyond the single-word depth of barking orders (“move!”) or repeatedly calling character names (“Snoop!”).
“Crawl or Die” is basically Alonso and her companions crawling through the same two barely lit tunnels for an hour and a half. Thanks to camera work that is routinely out of focus, darker than molasses at midnight, and spliced together in mismatched jump cuts, much of that time is spent trying to make out what is happening or what is being depicted. It isn’t entirely clear what the tunnel system is meant to be, either. Is it some kind of ventilation duct or maintenance shaft? Its circular openings look like they were hacked together with foam board and a box cutter, bearing rough-edged seams that would be sloppy even for a high school stage production.
The movie actually has audio design that is squarely above par for a production of this level. Low-budget horror movies are often plop down a camera and start recording affairs. I admire that writer/director/11-other-things Oklahoma Ward attempts a movie emphasizing mood and remembers to devote attention to elements like ambient noise.
If movies were graded on effort instead of on execution, “Crawl or Die” would score considerably higher as everyone behind the scenes gives a 100% commitment. Unfortunately for them, the few sand grains working in the film’s favor are swallowed by an ocean of inexperience, derivative source material, and absent resources.
Planned as the first part of a proposed trilogy, benefit of the doubt might suggest that a modest monetary infusion could inch “Crawl or Die” a little further down a tunnel of respectability. Except even then, additional cash can only give a certain boost to a thin idea. At some point, the creators have to put something more on the table besides a handful of monosyllabic bodies shimmying down a dark cardboard pipe for ninety minutes.
NOTE: “Crawl or Die” was previously titled “Crawl Bitch Crawl” and is known in Japan as “Alien Crawl.”
Review Score: 30