She finally finds him (Barry Pepper) unconscious and bleeding in the crawl space beneath the house. A giant gator has moved in, trapping Haley and her father in the basement as floodwaters rise.

Can they find a way out of the house before they drown — or become the blue plate special for a 13-foot gator?

Short, sweet and surprisingly entertaining, Crawl is a fantastic summer popcorn movie. Director Alexandre Aja (The 9th Life of Louis Drax) balances action with developing a tight character drama about a father and daughter. Lighting and cinematography make a menacing crawl space as each shadow stretches to its full potential, each creak suggests a looming alligator.

The rising water adds more tension, as space and air become more precious and the alligator becomes more mobile.

Surprising moments of humor complement the rising tension. In goofy scares that have you laughing right after you jump, gators snap background characters out of frame.

Scodelario makes an excellent lead. Her Haley is a tough, resourceful woman who’s determined to survive. When she’s challenged, she thinks her way through dilemmas. She’s also pretty tough with the gator — one of the film’s imperfections. 

This brutal, no-frills monster movie is perfect theater fare as part of the fun is enjoying everyone else react. Bring friends so you can yelp and shout together. 

Good Horror • R • 87 mins.

~~~ New this Week ~~~

The Art of Self Defense 

Casey (Jesse Eisenberg) is a quiet man, easily intimidated and eager to avoid trouble. Until a random attack makes him reclaim his confidence. 

A karate dojo led by a charismatic sensei (Alessandro Nivola) does the trick — until he discovers that the sensei leads private night classes developing hyper-macho brutality.

As actors, Eisenberg is always capable and Nivola is a reliable slimeball.

A comedy about toxic masculinity and what it means to be a modern man, The Art of Self Defense invites us to think — and laugh — about how men are taught to navigate the world. 

Prospects: Bright • R • 104 mins. 

The Lion King

Lion cub Simba (Donald Glover) is sent reeling when a family tragedy disrupts the harmony of his pride. In exile, the little lion must learn how to become a true king. Basically, it’s Hamlet with a mane glued on. 

This classic Disney remake is billed as a live-action film. Obviously, that’s not true since even Disney’s money can’t make a lion deliver lines. But it is a CGI re-imagining of the animated story featuring lots of realistically rendered creatures. That is both a blessing and a curse for the film. A blessing, because the technology is breathtaking, and a curse because hyper-realistic lions cannot express emotions the way a hand-drawn cartoon can.

Disney has created a cottage industry remaking its classic films. So far, only one has been as good as the original: The Jungle Book. The Lion King is not likely to follow in step. It’s a blatant cash grab from a company playing on nostalgia to make ever more money.

Prospects: Dim • PG • 110 mins.