Never judge a book by its cover, they say. When Alexandre Aja was first handed the script to Crawl, he wasn’t so much intrigued by the cover, but its logline (or brief summary). “A young woman has to save her dad during a Category 5 hurricane in Florida in a zone infested with alligators,” recalls Aja, 40, best known as a member of the Splat Pack, a coterie of filmmakers (which also included James Wan and Neil Marshall) in the noughties heavily influenced by ’70s and ’80s no-holds-barred, shock-and-shriek yarns made by Wes Craven, George A Romero and David Cronenberg.

“It’s so obvious and efficient that I couldn’t believe that no one else has done it before,” the Parisian tells 8 DAYS over the phone from New York. After the splashy comedy of Piranha, the fable-like mystery of Horns and the psychological mind games of The 9th Life of Louis Drax, Aja felt Crawl was the perfect vehicle to get his feet wet again, so to speak, and revisit the gritty and grotty style seen in his breakout High Tension and US debut The Hills Have Eyes, something “scary and intense that will have the audience on the edge of their seats.”

Finding his follow-up project— with The Maze Runner’s Kaya Scodelario as said heroine and Saving Private Ryan’s Barry Pepper as her cornered father— was a piece of cake, but executing it, as it turned out, was a different kind of beast. Here, Aja tells us more about the challenges he faced making his scaly home invasion tale.

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Excursion: Director Alexandre Aja (centre) with 'Crawl' stars Kaya Scodelario and Barry Pepper at the press day event at the Long Island Aquarium's 'Gator Invasion!' in New York on July 9, 2019.