March may come in like a lion and go out like a lamb, but rarely is it infected with crawlers from outer space… depending on the definition of the term. In Blumhouse and Hulu’s realm of holiday horror series, Into The Dark, mysterious cryptids of March are not restricted to tiny men in green top hats and hidden pots of gold. March 17th seems to be a day far from good luck as St. Patrick takes a vacation and a strange meteor crash lands the party in his stead.
Debut feature director Brandon Zuck turns St. Patrick’s Day upside down by looking towards the other end of the rainbow for his nefarious creature invasion, Crawlers. In this episode, a casual college pub crawl turns into a gruesome adventure in the name of survival and truth.
“[Crawlers] turns St. Patrick’s Day upside down by looking towards the other end of the rainbow for [this] nefarious creature invasion”
With a debut story written by Catherine Wignall, who also collaborated on the teleplay with fellow writer Mike Gan (Burn), March’s Into The Dark episode appears to tell a story we are familiar with on the outside, but something more sinister and important hides beneath its skin. Oozing with young talent from stars including Giorgia Whigham (The Punisher), Pepi Sonuga (Thriller), Cameron Fuller (Groove), Olivia Liang (Legacies), and Jude Demorest (Dallas), Crawlers‘ wild night out sees “three unlikely friends band together to save a college town from a vicious horde of body-switching aliens” on Saint Patrick’s Day night.
Music by Ceiri Torjussen (I, Robot) is reminiscent of early millennium sci-fi thrillers, but bites with effective modish intensity. You may not believe some of the events, but the message is one you can’t deny… whether you see it with your own eyes or not.
Gotta Follow Tradition
In the grand green scheme of Saint Patrick’s Day, Crawlers invokes tradition with color and college camaraderie. This episode bleeds the likeliness of The Faculty, Black Christmas (2019), and Men in Black, all enjoyable vibes of nostalgia with a new age edge. Set in a college town and revolving around a Saint Patrick’s Day Massacre pub crawl where no one makes it out alive adds a distinct tone and feel to the narrative all viewers can relate to. While watching it, you can almost smell the alcohol and poor decisions. What began as a holiday representing Ireland’s culture and patron saint has since evolved into a prolific party celebration.
Each scene hints at a traditional palette conjuring leprechauns and clovers with subtle green tints and hues. There’s a wicked cold open, complete with a stellar title card and animated credits that kick off with “There Will Be Blood” off of Kim Petras’ popular horror-inspired pop album, Turn Off The Light. All of which make the events that unfold that much more hip and exciting.
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“…all enjoyable vibes of nostalgia with a new age edge.”
Crawlers hypes up a typical alien invasion story that is not terribly original but puts a very fresh spin on foreign infection and duplicity. It maintains the conventions of cinematic extraterrestrial strikes in a way that keeps questions to a minimum and centers, instead, upon characters and meaning. Like so many teen flicks before, it’s made up of narration, character introductions, and background info, but all done in appropriate fun. The story lags just a bit towards the middle until an infamous test scene, a la The Thing is conducted, drawing viewers right back into the battle, armed and ready to go.
The only true pitfall that really needs mentioning is the lack of gore and special effects. What is present is quality carnage, but I sadly just wanted more of it. However, I appreciate the restraint in foregoing the gory visuals over digitizing beyond means. Some events may be a little predictable, but Zuck and Wignall always keep the story focused and rich in its correlating elements. While Crawlers is not exactly unique in its endeavors, much can be attributed to the way it greatly modernizes its affairs and themes.
Sounds A Little Far-Fetched
In our highly publicized and overly technological age, it’s hard not to speculate that there’s always something lurking beneath the surface of most things. Something “f***ing askew” as one of Crawlers’ main heroines, Shauna, puts it. Conspiracy theories have become unfathomable oddities to subjects of more common interest. Everything from alien and UFO sightings to the existence of the Illuminati has been put under a strange cultural microscope in hopes that we will, one day, piece together fragments of the answers we fear.
Shauna’s alternative obsession with beings and beliefs kept undercover by formal forces is not unlike the masses of today’s young adults, skeptical of the world set up around them. Though it makes her an outsider compared to the other college students, her weird fascinations with the unexplainable and the intrusive is a great manifestation of contemporary issues slowly invading our lives.
“Crawlers invites you to make the ultimate decision when it comes to those uneasy questions”
Phone taps, app algorithms, voice captures, and even surveillance videos are now part of almost everything we do… unless we’re living completely off the grid. Her precaution and paranoia may echo the trope of the token weirdo in Crawlers, but it gives her character a more important role serving those who are not afraid to expose the truth. Like Shauna, the threat of an alien infestation is oddly far-fetched but holds ground as a more nuanced addition to the narrative of Crawlers.
Referring to the crawlers themselves as ants with a hive-like purpose, it’s a cinematic treatment made for themes of all ranges like disease and mob mentality. The quintessential nest controls the growing invasion that trickles into our society and culture, leaving our heroes to kill the representation at the source. Appropriating the combined mythos of Saint Patrick and extraterrestrials to bring this topical story to life is a tremendous move on writer Catherine Wignall’s part. She has written a higher meaning into a typical story of an invasion from above.
I Believe You
Crossing the strange notions we believe in with those drawn from fiction correlates well within Crawlers’ entertaining, but simple story. Setting a meteor landing in a college town, the lines of trust are immediately blurred. Separate beams are placed above fact and fiction as the young characters must navigate their way through rape culture and otherworldly advocation. When so many other films rely on heavy metaphors and imagery to send a message, Crawlers utilizes a strong, upfront script to drive the point home. The characters’ dialogue and behaviors are relevant modes of communication, which serves well to a variety of viewers. The interactions have a young adult charm, but the unlikely group of college kids tackle bigger, more mature issues at large. Wignall and Gan’s teleplay guides the narrative with fluid mechanics and purposeful attitude. The truth may not always be as common as a UFO sighting, but both Shauna and Misty are vessels for voices that are not always taken seriously by the many.
Over the course of an evening dripping with dangerous duplicity, the two fight to prove their causes and save a friend in need. At the forefront of college life, their story intersects with that of frat boy, Aaron, bringing in a male perspective of accountability and responsibility. Trust and loyalty, as well as enabling and prevention are natural topics discussed within the supernatural battle. It’s a pretty brilliant way to spin a classic Body Snatchers-type story into more modern, applicable circumstances. Wignall manages to successfully include many different aspects of a major social issue with ease as a plausible (well, plausible by way of the horror world) alien infestation takes place in the background. I really loved the overall notion the way Shauna states that “People don’t believe what they can’t see, and when they do it’s usually too late”. This fun, lively, colorful story challenged with the inner workings of an extraterrestrial threat and the protected wrongs done against women simultaneously asks us to question: What do we believe? Who do we believe? Do we have to see something in order to believe it exists? To believe it happened? Do we only believe when the threat is at our front door? With just this in mind, Crawlers is exceptionally connected and clever.
“Crawlers is exceptionally connected and clever […]”
Whether you search the sky or the screen for answers, Crawlers gives you a pretty good reason to look past the surface of things no matter how authentic or impossible they may seem. One of the film’s many great lines of dialogue, “People need everything to make sense before they believe what’s happening right before them“, is a grand testament to our current social climate as it has been in regards to mythical beliefs like aliens and leprechauns. Together, Zuck and Wignall have created a cool, otherworldly story that brings together two realms of belief that, unfortunately, draw some very similar parallels. Sometimes the outsiders are the only ones looking in and the ones in the crowd don’t dare to look outside of it. Crawlers invites you to make the ultimate decision when it comes to those uneasy questions, whether it’s the existence of beings beyond our world or something more troubling grounded here on our very own planet, in our very own town, in our own voices. Are you a skeptic or are you a believer?
Are you watching the second season of Hulu and Blumhouse’s Into The Dark anthology series? What do you think of March’s topical alien invasion episode, Crawlers? Would you make it out alive? Let us know your thoughts over on Twitter, Reddit, or in the Horror Movie Fiend Club on Facebook!