AVAILABLE ON DVD
RUNNING TIME: 93 mins
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
Eight teenagers go on a weekend boat trip on a remote lake in Southern California. After a day of partying, the group have a bonfire, where Kit tells the others a local story about how, 96 years ago, a hotel owner named Harlan featured a crocodile named Flat Dog at his hotel, eventually setting up a shrine to her, believing her to be an avatar to the ancient Egyptian crocodile god Sobek. The town eventually ran Harlan out of town and torched his hotel years later when Kit was a kid. Close by, two local fishermen destroy a crocodile nest, only for them both to be attacked by a big crocodile….
The killer crocodile/alligator subgenre has a poor reputation which seems to be generally deserved, with genuienly good efforts like Rogue, Alligator and Lake Placid rather thin on the ground. Crocodile, which perhaps could have just been called Crock, was made by Nu Image who went through a phase of making cheap and cheerful – but let’s face it mostly pretty crappy – monster movies like Shark Attack and Mega Snake, so one shouldn’t really expect it to be good. Yes, Tobe Hooper, who of course dealt with a similar creature in Death Trap/ Eaten Alive, is in the director’s chair but his later work is mostly considered to be very poor. So, even though I have a real soft spot for this kind of movie especially if they feature water-based creatures like sharks and crocodiles, I put my DVD of Crocodile into my player with very low expectations but hoping that I would still be reasonably entertained and there would be some stuff to laugh at. And I guess I wasn’t too disappointed, though I failed to have as much ‘so bad it’s good’ fun as I expected. Personally I always find a film like this far more amusing if it seems like the filmmakers thought they were actually making a good movie, rather than them not even trying and just doing it all for laughs. Crocodile appears to belong more in the first category to me, but it fails so miserable in nearly every respect that I honestly found it increasingly annoying to watch and I begun to wonder if Hooper cared at all about what he was making.
Crocodile, which aside from the crocodile scenes plays like an old school slasher movie [though, of course, a very poor one], piles on all the hoary old cliches but hardly ever attempts to put a fresh spin on them, from a campfire story which provides us with exposition to two teens about to ‘get it on’ when one of them hears a noise and says “what was that”? And it makes the big mistake – well it’s a mistake in my opinion – of having most of the teenagers be so unlikeable that you just can’t wait till they’re gobbled up. Maybe I’m just getting old, but, but I personally find it depressingly cynical when you’re not meant to care two hoots about whoever is being gruesomely killed on screen unless it’s something like a bad guy in an action movie. This lot are so unsympathetic that they even cheer when a truck containing one of their number is blown to smithereens. And why on earth did the effects crew seem to go to all the trouble of building a full-sized or maybe half-sized mechanical crocodile model when for more than three quarters of the time we watch a shoddy looking CGI thing that almost looks like a ghost? There are so many bafflingly bad decisions that appear to have been made regarding this film.
Our teens are familiar archetypes – the loudmouthed guy, the whiner who’s having trouble with his girlfriend, the prudish girl, the slutty girl, etc. They’re given to exhanges like: “Are you crying”? “No, the wind’s juts bothering my c***”. The main source of friction within the group is that Duncan got Brady expelled from school for cheating, and that Brady’s unhappy that Duncan invited Sunny along because her presence makes him uncomfortable despite supposedly being loved up with this girlfriend Claire – and one can easily guess why so it’s no surprise when Sunny later drunkenly blurts out something. Duncan, by the way, is the most obnoxious of the lot, a really loathsome individual, so you’d think and even hope that he’d get a grand death scene – but he survives the film [what, you think I’m going to totally avoid spoilers for a movie as shoddy as this?]. It’s hard to really rate the performances in this film but if some of this lot were intended to be so irritating and dislikeable then the cast members did a good job. I usually try not to be juvenile and comment on how sexually attractive I find a cast member in a film, but I’m clutching at straws here and have to say that Summer Knight was most delectable to the eyes even though her character Sunny was given some of the worst lines to deliver, like: “What if that thing’s really magical? Then we’re not safe”.
It’s Duncan and some of the others messing around with the crocodile eggs that they find which marks then out as potential crocodile food. The first attack is quite a decent jolt, the creature suddenly bursting out of the water to chomp on one of two fishermen who’ve destroyed much of the nest. The other guy flees in his car but the reptile somehow manages to catch up with him and reach in through the open window to chomp on him – after which the crocodile pushes the car into the river. Then for a while after that all we have are a couple of reasonable fake scares to keep us going, with Hooper not really trying to build up much in the way of suspense in the way that even your average Friday The 13th entry does a fairly good job of doing. Again, it feels like he just didn’t care about this picture. The teenagers get drunk, and then get drunk again, before one of them is killed on a pier and their boat becomes stuck, leaving them stranded in the middle of nowhere. They wonder about the woods continually moaning and bitching at each other, while at the same time the local sheriff Bowman finds the dead fishermen before visiting Shurkin and Lester, two locals who take care of crocodiles. Shurkin sets out with Bowman to find Flat Dog and kill her to avenge the deaths of his grandfather and father. There’s little urgency about any of this though we do eventually get some reasonable action, albeit with what seems like two different crocodiles given the disparity in appearance between the model one and the CG one.
The attack scenes do spill the red stuff a bit more than you may expect though tend to be fustratingly simplistic in detail. Most of the time all we simply is the crocodile move its full mouth up and down with some blood staining its lips. The first one gives us a bit of ‘shakycam’ simulating the crocodile’s viewpoint though this is then abandoned. There’s one well staged if silly bit where the creature burst in through a convenience store wall, smashes the shop up then chomps a pick-up truck and causes the entire store to explode from spilt gasoline. But you don’t get to see the water-skiier who features on the front cover of some of the DVD releases get eaten at all. In fact, she’s not in the film whatsoever. This crocodile, by the way, is so amazingly strong and powerful that bullets bounce off it, it’s able to stand right next to a car which is blown up and not even get touched, and leap about 30 feet in the air over a police boat. The latter is quite a good WFT moment and I had to rewind my DVD to make sure of what I had just seen. But – I don’t know, maybe I wasn’t in the right mood and may well have enjoyed this film if I’d watched it at another time – for much of the time I was reduced to asking myself how Hooper could have turned out a film this poor, a film on which he seemed to make as little effort as possible. When one character picks up a chainsaw but can’t start it in what is probably a deliberate reference, the moment is depressingly symbolic in a way that clearly wasn’t intended, and the strongest emotion that one can really feel is sadness.
Crocodile isn’t really worth bothering about unless maybe if you decide to watch it with a group of friends and you all knock back as much booze as the teenagers do in the film. Amazingly it has a sequel, so it must have more than made its money back! And even more amazingly, I might check it out.