There’s one thing you won’t see a lot of in Alexandre Aja’s new man-eating alligator movie Crawl, and that’s real life alligators. Or, for that matter, an abundance of animatronics and puppets. The new thriller, starring Kaya Scodelario as a college student trapped in a house in the middle of a hurricane as it fills with water and angry alligators, relies almost entirely on CGI creatures.
In a new interview with Bloody-Disgusting, Alexandre Aja explained the importance and necessity for CGI creations over practical effects, and revealed that – although computers did a lot of the heavy lifting – there was practical work done on the set to make the illusion convincing.
“There are, I think, four or five shots that are practical, at the end,” Aja explains.
“We had a tail to do some of the movement in the water, we had a head for the head coming out. We had the jaws open when you see [Kaya Scodelario] through the teeth. That’s practical. The baby alligators are also practical.
“The rest was full CG, but it was a decision taken very early on because […] to recreate the movement, the speed, the ferocity of these beasts, there is no animatronics that can achieve that,” Aja says.
Alexandre Aja is, of course, referring to the fact that – as impressive as animatronics have become – the art form has its own limitations.
“I was not missing the animatronics for a simple reason. When you go with animatronics you’re mostly locked into a frame,” Aja says, referring to the need to shoot animatronics from specific angles, to hide the seams and the puppeteers.
“It was good when you were mixing a lot of movies with a lot of […] fast cuts,” Aja adds, but that wasn’t what he had in mind. “I wanted to be around them. I wanted to see their whole body moving towards her and closing on her. I really wanted to feel that they exist within the frame with her, and that’s something that usually animatronics doesn’t let you do because you have to restrict framing a lot.”
Still, no matter how much CGI a film like Crawl uses, for the effects to be believable it takes additional work on the set.
“I’m a big partisan of mixing technology and I was really hands-on, to be sure that we create the place for the visual effect, [so] that we could really incorporate them the best way,” Aja explains.
“So like a diver recreating the wake as it [the alligator] comes out of the water, so we’d have the real movement of the water. From the distant crawling in their spandex green suit through a cable [to] get the right movement on the ground, and on the set around. Those were very important elements,” Aja says.
You’ll get a much closer look at the alligators of Crawl when the film opens in theaters this weekend!