By: Kayla Caldwell
I have to be honest. Coming into CRAWLERS, the latest installment in Blumhouse Television and Hulu’s Into the Dark series, I was feeling a bit hesitant. I don’t typically enjoy alien movies, unless they’re by M. Night Shyamalan and star Joaquin Phoenix - okay, I’m specifically talking about Signs.
But CRAWLERS is a lot more than just an alien movie. It’s funny, self-aware, and, even a bit political. (Don’t worry - there’s no mention of Trump.) It also begins with the absolute banger that is Kim Petra’s “There Will Be Blood.” Honestly, whoever made that choice deserves a raise. It’s perfect. The format of CRAWLERS was also different than I was expecting.
See, the movie starts with more of an Easy A vibe, as Shauna (Giorgia Whigham) recounts the events of St. Patrick’s Day into a webcam. She may be the outcast, conspiracy theorist drug dealer, but in this case, she’s also our narrator. In time, you’ll see if she’s reliable or not.
She was just hoping to make some money off of drunk party goers, when she ran into Misty (Pepi Sonuga), who, I wrote in my notes, “needs new friends.” Her bestie, Chloe (Jude Demorest) has been spending more time with Yuejin (Olivia Liang) lately, while she suffers silently from the world’s biggest case of FOMO.
Of course, that’s not the only thing on Misty’s mind. She’s understandably traumatized after being drugged by a frat boy named Michael, who Shauna remarks, “specifically asked for roofies once.” Ever since, Chloe had been pulling away from Misty, who, to be honest, had become a bit of a drag. Chloe didn’t believe Misty’s story, because… well, people often don’t.
Though the likelier cause for her lack of support was not wanting to miss out on the frat’s parties. Solidarity would have inevitably meant boycotting, which Chloe clearly did not want to do. See, I told you, Misty needs new friends.
Thankfully, Shauna immediately aligns herself with Misty, scoffing to the camera, “Uh, hi. Believe women. It’s 2020!” It makes me giddy to see Into the Dark’s continued emphasis on social issues. Throughout CRAWLERS, various characters grapple with the toxic nature of rape culture, noting multiple times that they can’t go to the cops, because they wouldn’t believe them.
The plot really gets moving once Misty notices Chloe is nowhere to be found… and was last spotted with Aaron (Cameron Fuller), a member of the fraternity where Misty was drugged. She launches a full-scale investigation, with Shauna and Yuejin following along.
Amid the chaos of Chloe’s disappearance, no one seems to notice that people are being hunted by body-snatching aliens, who feed on them, and then become them. This movie definitely has body horror, though it’s not as gory as you might think.
At one point, Shauna and Misty try to trace Chloe back to the frat house in question, where they’re both barred from entering by Michael, roofie extraordinaire. Shauna bribes him with drugs, but later learns that only grants her entrance. He still wants to have a little chat with Misty.
Without even thinking, Shauna gives him the rest of her illicit baggie, dragging Misty along through the house with her. And Misty doesn’t say anything, either. There’s no dramatic “thank you.” There’s no fanfare around the gesture at all. It’s simply understood, that no woman - no respecting human being, actually - would have left Misty to the dog(s) like that.
Whigham is an absolute delight as Shauna, reminiscent of Billie Lourd in Scream Queens. Of course, that makes sense, seeing as she’s sort of already played this role before. Whigham memorably played lovable goth chick Beth in the VH1 season of the Scream TV series.
Shauna is an outsider, yes. But she’s happy to be one, if that means she can live in her truth, rather than swallow whatever bullshit message society throws at her. She secretly carries a gun, can pick a lock, and isn’t afraid to risk herself for the good of her friends - or, well, the entire world. “Boy scouts aren’t the only ones who should always be prepared,” she quips. And I’d have to agree.
It seems silly to segue into something as serious as rape culture, while talking about a body-snatching alien story. However, director Brandon Zuck plays it off so well.
Aaron confronts Misty for hating on his fraternity simply because Michael is a member. “You’re lumping us all in it together,” he whines, adding, “I’m not Michael.” It’s a conversation so many women have had with so many men before. I understand the desire to yell, “But not me! I’m one of the good ones,” but that minimizes the problem.
I was biting my tongue, nervous that this strong, determined survivor was going to apologize to this white frat boy for being judgmental. Thankfully, that’s not what happens. She calls him out. “Then why didn’t you do anything about it?” Misty rightfully asks, when Aaron maintains he would never do something like Michael did.
If you know something bad is happening, and don’t make any effort to stop it, how can you yourself be innocent? She points this out to Aaron, adding, quite sarcastically, “You just hang out with bad guys and party with bad guys and live with bad guys, but I’m sure you’re not a bad guy.” It’s a great moment, because this is what women have been trying to say all along.
We’re not just massive fans of generalization. We’re doing it for our own safety, because we do not have the luxury of knowing, before we get close to a man, if he is going to be dangerous or not. But statistics show that more crimes are committed by someone the victims knows.
This forces Aaron into a relatively awkward apology, and an even more cringe-worthy and reluctant reciprocation from Misty. Aaron isn’t exactly who he seems, fortunately. However, it was still refreshing to not have Aaron and Misty paired at the end of the film. It was nice to see these characters having an open and honest discussion without sex being on the line.
All in all, even though it’s technically an alien movie, it feels more like a fun, teen romp a la Scream, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, or Netflix’s The Babysitter. The emphasis in CRAWLERS is more on entertainment than straight horror. There are plenty of moments of comic relief, and as mentioned above, a bit of social commentary.
It’s honestly really empowering to see a movie like CRAWLERS, where the female characters are the ones moving the action, while the men tag along. CRAWLERS is self-aware, and a bit campy, but not cheesy or overly sweet. There are no tearful reunions or big, sloppy kisses.
Is CRAWLERS the strongest Into the Dark film yet? To be quite honest, it’s not even the best March installment, as last year’s Treehouse holds a special place in my heart. However, it offers something different, while retaining the same feminist message. I’m honestly living for the forward-thinking, socially aware content Blumhouse has been creating of late. Between this, The Invisible Man, and My Valentine, just send me all the branded merch, because I am a stan.
This year, celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with a different kind of snake - oh, and some body-snatching aliens - by checking out CRAWLERS, which debuts on Hulu March 6.
Photos courtesy of Hulu