-Fred Robinson aka Nowhere Man-
Observations of clichÃˆs (Of Course…), stupidities, and stuff I didn’t know (IDKT = I Didn’t Know That…), jotted down as the movie progressed, with some notes expanded later.
By Nowhere Man (Fred Robinson), minion of Jabootu, firstname.lastname@example.org, 10/14/2000
- Ah, directed by Tobe Hooper. This is always a good sign.
- OK, we have a bunch of teen/college-age punks. Wanna bet that the cute blonde and the guy in the black tank top (BTT from now on) will be the only survivors?
- Hey! One of the players is named Sommer Knight. Can you say “pseudonym?” Sure. I knew you could.
- Ten to one the little dog will be croc chow.
- Oops – BTT’s co-survivor will be the other blonde, his real girlfriend, who shows up a bit later. (Outcome: See below)
- Of Course, there’s a big redneck sheriff. Also Of Course, one of the punks pisses him off.
- A blood alcohol content of “zero point two five?” The guy on the jet-ski guy wasn’t drunk, he was embalmed! I believe 0.04 is alcohol-poisoning level. [Editor’s Note: I’m not sure about that – I think many localities define legally drunk as a .1 blood alcohol content. Any clarifacation out there?]
- Heh. Some stuff got blown off the houseboat by the camera chopper.
- There’s a nice big fire axe in the background. Far bigger than a punky houseboat would need. Betcha it gets pressed into service later. (Outcome: Yep, it does, but to no effect.)
- Where are they that a croc could be found? Florida sure doesn’t have geology like that. Someone mentions the Carolinas. (Later we learn that the croc was imported, and that gators are more normally found in the area.)
- So, why did the croc push the two hicks’ car into the water?
- Crocs can’t get barnacles. Barnacles are salt water, this croc is fresh water.
- It’s the punk who cried wolf. I bet this causes him trouble later. (Outcome: No, it didn’t, unfortunately.)
- Crocs bury their eggs. But mama will guard the nest.
- A female croc with eggs implies a male croc somewhere. Nobody’s seen it, either.
- That looks like a fancy chopper for a hick sheriff like him.
- How long is the croc going to wait to get her egg? And it’s been in BTT’s girlfriend’s backpack for hours now.
- Wow, those are sure some clean cuts in the boards of the dock after the croc chomps punk victim #1.
- Another day, another chopper. This one is quite different from the one the sheriff was riding the day before. And then in the next shot, it changes back. Wow, stealth technology!
- Yawn. This is Orca with 4 legs and scales.
- IDKT jumping into the water when a croc attacks your houseboat is a good idea.
- You can call me sick for noticing this, but I’m pretty sure Princess is a male dog. (I prefer to say that I’m “observant.”)
- According to the revenge-bent gator farmer, this croc’s been around for nearly 100 years. What has it been eating, and why hasn’t anyone else noticed?
- Well, it looks like Lester won’t have to worry about any more buggerings at the hands of the gator farmer. But why did the croc eat Lester? He just gave her a bunch of chickens, he’s her friend.
- Whoa, those are some nasty blisters on blonde #1’s foot.
- The model croc looks OK, but the CGI animation looks kind of weak. The appearance is OK, but the movement is not.
- OK, the little dog survived the destruction of the general store, so I guess it can live. Grump.
- There’s just two guys hunting 20 feet of croc? All night and all day?
- BTT’s girlfriend still hasn’t found the egg in her backpack! And she’s still carrying the damn backpack around!
- The croc leaps out of the water, over the boat, and dives in on the other side. Funny how there’s hardly a ripple in the water afterwards.
- Of Course, the boat won’t start.
- I will give the sheriff points for doing his best to rescue the kids. He doesn’t seem to hate the Spring Break crowd, they just give him more work. He’s not one of the fat beer-swilling sheriffs, but an older, “been there, seen that, don’t want to see it again” type.
- A reference to Animal Planet’s The Crocodile Hunter! Hey, has anyone else seen his FedEx commercial? Ain’t it a hoot?
- “What about pointed sticks?” (Monty Python reference.) FWIW, the sticks don’t look very pointed.
- The croc tossed the punk (who cried wolf) up and back, and was able to move fast enough to catch him and swallow him whole, head first. That’s one fast lizard.
- Aww, ain’t the baby croc cute?
- The punk who was swallowed headfirst now comes back out headfirst. It’s a big croc, but not big enough to turn six feet of punk around inside.
- IDKT slapping is an acceptable form of resuscitation.
- IDKT mosquito repellent will make a croc puke.
- Tch. The little dog made it all the way through. So did BTT, his girlfriend, and the punk who was swallowed and barfed back up.
For what’s it worth, Crocodile is rather better than Octopus. (Not that that’s much of a distinction.) Much more straightforward in its construction, the film basically functions as a straight slasher flick. A bunch of horny, partying kids go off in the woods, well, swamp, and gain the baleful attention of a whispered-about legendary killer. Only here the killer is a pissed-off mama croc. The flick also benefits from the solid, journeyman direction provided by genre pro/hack Tobe Hooper. Mr. Hooper, who also provides commentary for the DVD (!) of the film due out in December, has presumably abandoned trying to live up to his initial The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Here he provides an uninspired but professional sheen to the proceedings. It should also be noted that Mr. Hooper previously plumbed the giant crocodile trope in his much earlier Eaten Alive. (In fact, they wink at that earlier film here, with a local ‘legend’ about an insane hotel owner who imported a giant croc, which was Eaten Alive’s plot.)
As opposed to the faux-epic opening of its octopus-oriented predecessor, we here begin with a more contemporary feel. The generic pop tune and shots of a highway shooting by quickly establish a WB teenfest feel, ala Dawson’s Creek or Popular or whatever of those shows is still on this week. A bunch (and I mean, a bunch) of cannon fodder kids appear and jump onto a houseboat heading off for the sort of secluded locales these things require. All the staples are here: Especially Obnoxious Guy, the Sensitive Guy, the Girl Who’d Rather Be Shopping, the Bitch (OK, she hasn’t appeared yet, but I’m guessing), etc. The big plot point seems to be that Brady, aka Sensitive Guy, fears the attentions of Sunny, the Clingy Girl (who, oops, will apparently also be The Bitch), who he once had a fling with yet is generally uninterested in. Instead, he loves Claire, his girlfriend from his old school. We can tell she’s ‘genuine’ because she’s a strawberry blond without much make-up as compared to Sunny’s flashy platinum blonde. Claire is unaware of the affair, and, needless to say, this will provide some painfully boring time-wasting plot fodder as we wait for the monster antics to begin.
Before leaving town, they are (rather mildly) hassled by the local sheriff. Especially Obnoxious Guy immediately makes a redneck crack. Is it a sign of my aged state that such a scene makes me long for the cop to beat the kid with his nightstick? Or that the sight of these morons cavorting inspires the fervid wish that they start getting et soon. Cut to the inevitable Kids-Around-the-Campfire bit, where the equally inevitable Urban, or Rural, actually, Legend is relayed. Meanwhile, some rather broadly drawn Rednecks (you expected otherwise?) find and destroy a nest of *gasp* crocodile eggs, thinking they’re the eggs of an endangered bird. Because that’s the kind of thing Redneck do, you know. I assume they’ll quickly learn what happens when you enter the living room of a giant animal and piss on its carpet. Yep, guess so.
Anyway, Especially Obnoxious Guy finds and grabs a remaining egg and secretly stows it on their boat. I guess a bloody jacket ala Jurassic Park: The Lost World would have been too evidently a rip-off. Especially obvious is how they tuck it into Claire’s backpack, which of course will be dragged with them as they run around cross-country trying to escape their pursuer. The kids fall one-by-one, and the Sheriff brings in the obligatory Quint-Guy, here, naturally, a sleazy backwoods crocodile hunter. I think you can figure out the rest from there.
- Let’s see. Eaten Alive. Alligator. Alligator II. Killer Crocodile. Killer Crocodile II. The Great Alligator. Lake Placid. Crocodile (1981). Then there’s this and it’s upcoming sequel. Somebody likes this kind of thing.
- Ah, overhead shots of the yellow lane markers flashing by, a staple since the “Burning Down the House” video.
- I really hope I not going to be expected to remember everybody’s name here.
- One of the ‘actors’ is named ‘Sommer Knight.’ Oh, brother. Can a career in porn films be far behind?
- Oh, oh, Annoying Little Dog Alert!
- I have to warn you, this is the kind of film where you’re supposed to pump the air with your fist and yell, “DUUDE!” all the time.
- So, that guy playing the Sheriff got the part because Ronny Cox was unavailable, right?
- I guess young lovers really do soulfully call each other ‘Babe,’ all the time, but what actually happens in real life doesn’t always work on the screen. A little tip from your Uncle Ken.
- Ha, ha, look at the Comical Rednecks. Maybe later a Humorous Negro will pop his eyes and say “Feets don’t fail me now!” or something. Unfortunately, I think the swampland locale precludes the possibility of a hilarious “No tickee, no shirtee,” Chinese Laundry scene.
- OK, the non-blatant reference to Eaten Alive is pretty funny.
- Dogs. They always know.
- Ah, the hero and heroine are the first to sense there’s something wrong. Of course.
- Why does the Croc repeatedly lurk and watch people destroy its eggs and then attack them later? This doesn’t seem like a strong survival technique.
- Hmm, I guess the Croc saw Psycho, since it recreates the ‘pushing the car into the swamp’ scene.
- Boy, the lovey-dovey scenes between Brady and Claire are positively ex-cruc-iating.
- Amazingly, though, their big fight scene after Sunny blows the affair thing is even worse, especially since we know a horrifying ‘make-up’ scene is sure to follow.
- First kid gets et. Finally.
- Wait, so they don’t have a radio or cell phone on their boat? What the hell?
- By the way, since Brady is so obviously a prick, why are we supposed to care if he and Claire get back together again? Oh, yeah, the Designated Hero thing.
- How comes the Croc moves so slow sometimes and so insanely fast at other times? Oh, yeah, the It’s In The Script thing.
- Wow, those fangs bend like they were rubber.
- There goes Generic Guy #2.
- Ah, the Quint-Guy. We’ve been expecting you.
- Weird things in jars of formaldehyde. Check.
- OK, the bit about how Flat Dog (the giant Croc’s name, don’t ask) ate Quint-Guy’s daddy and granddad in past years is pretty funny, in an over-the-top sort of way. I wonder where Quint-Guy’s quest for vengeance against the critter will lead. (Actually, that’s not true, since I have a pretty good idea exactly where it’s leading.)
- I’m sure there’s some joke to be had from a severed head in an ice cooler (“Lots of head room”? Nah.), but I can’t think of it right now.
- Isn’t the ‘guy who secretly feeds the Croc’ thing right out of Lake Placid? Yeah, there’s a movie you want to emulate.
- Jeepers, we’ve only about half an hour to go and at least half a dozen victims still left to chomp on. Things are going to get right messy right quick, I’m thinking.
- Yeah, yeah, they’re walking around the woods like in The Blair Witch Project, we get it.
- Would you eat that damn yappy dog, already?
- Slutty Bitch Girl trips and gets et, big surprise.
- Boy, this ‘monster attacking the general store’ scene sure doesn’t remind me of Tremors or anything.
- Look, I’m not saying a shotgun would kill this thing, but it would certainly do more than that.
- Ah, the inevitable ‘guy blown up in a truck while trying to escape’ bit.
- A single-barrel sawed-off shotgun? That’s the Quint-Guy’s big secret weapon? Well, whoop-dee-do.
- Why do they always go after these huge monsters in these teeny boats?
- Oh, that’s why. Bye, Quint-Guy.
- OK, that thing where the massive Croc rockets out of the water, arcs twenty feet or more in the air, and splashes down on the far side of the boat? That’s making my Hundred Dumbest Things I’ve Ever Seen list. Which, at this point in my career, is pretty amazing. Bravo, my friends.
- Yeah, lean out over the engine. Gee, what will happen now?
- Oh, c’mon, why’s she still carrying that stupid backpack? Oh, IITS, because of the egg hidden in it, which they still haven’t noticed.
- That’s even funnier. Brady asks for her backpack and Claire snaps, “There’s nothing even in it!” Then why the hell would you be carrying it around through all this?!
- Deus ex Machina Alert!
- See, the Croc was naturally benign, only people made it bad. Awww.
- OK, I understand why the Hero (such as he is) and Heroine are left standing, but why is the film’s single biggest dickhead left amongst the very limited number of survivors? I especially like how he purposely arranged for Brady and Claire’s relationship to go ka-blowie so that he’d have a change to get into Claire’s pants.
- And, of course, they can’t be allowed to kill the annoying little yapping dog. Stupid movie
This film is a pretty good illustration of the ongoing limitations of CGI, or Computer Generated Image, effects. On the one hand, they allow for extraordinary detail in the design of your monsters. They also allow for a scale of effects you probably couldn’t meet with more conventional techniques. (See the legions of Binkses in the last Star Wars movie.) Yet they still have a long way to go. King Kong. Jason and the Argonauts. Them! Jaws. Put these up against Pitch Black, Deep Blue Sea, Starship Troopers, Relic, etc. Even when the computer effects look ‘better,’ they still lack the tangible feel of more primitively created creatures, whether achieved with your basic simple props or with stop-motion. CGI effects still lack the feeling of weight and mass, and it’s interesting to compare how more effective the scenes realized here with simple animatronics feel when compared to its much more expensive CGI stuff.
Tobe Hooper directs. First, I’ve never seen The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I did have a chance to see it, believe it or not, at the John F. Kennedy Center in D.C., about ten years ago when a small film institute tucked into one corner of the center was screening films for Halloween. But I had a party to go to, and I had seen Re-Animator there a few days before.
Now to the latest Tobe opus: Crocodile. Or, as I came to call it, “Crocodile Done-Bad.” With minor editing and omissions, these are the actual notes I took during viewing. Do I get the first victims right? Do I guess how they kill the creature? Do I make any Gatorade references? Let’s watch:
9 minutes: Enter two men. They’re beer-bellied, Southern-talking yahoos, they’re middle-aged in a teen movie, plus they rant about “hippies.” Excuse me, have either of you two gentlemen seen our first victims around here? (Am I the only northerner who thinks that southern accent = stupidity is offensive?) (Hmm. On reading this the second time, I noticed that I had spelled “thinks” as “thainks.”)
11 minutes: Maybe the two yahoos won’t be first to die. Too obvious, too stale. Perhaps the director is cleverly toying with our expectations in order to misdirect our attention and deliver an adroit and cunning twist.
11 minutes: Nope.
12 minutes: The crocodile is pushing a car for, oh, about forty feet heading straight for the water’s edge, for no discernible reason except to hide the evidence, and this with the car not even in gear? Now I bet we can all agree — that’s a big crock. (But what crucial piece of evidence did the crocodile overlook that will help Colombo unravel the mystery?)
17 minutes: The Hair of Many Colors Chick [Sunny] says: “Two, four, six, eight. Jiggle, Jiggle, shake, shake.” That would have to be “shate, shate.” Or am I just full of shite?
25 minutes: Who will be the first victim from our main party? Not the loving couple: Both survive. Not the dog, Princess, yet. Not the lad who told the campfire story yet. Not the hero’s buddy, Red-Highlights Guy, because he’s had a lot of lines, indicating he will have a special death. Not Hair of Many Colors Chick yet, because that special physical trait is introduced to make her stand out. So, I guess either Shaved Head Guy or Guy With Earrings. I pick those with the least dialogue that also contains the highest ratio of obnoxious content. In particular, they have mocked the crocodile eggs. (There’s a warning and a tag line: Don’t Mock the Croc.)
30 minutes: Will they kill the dog? A toss-up at this point. Conventional wisdom says you never kill a movie dog, but they’ve made it an annoying, pampered dust-mop. Best of Breed or Best to Bleed?
39 minutes: Hey, the foley guy burped.
40 minutes: Yep, Guy With Earrings.
41: So how will they kill the croc? With something in the Deserted Mansion during the Big Finish.
42: If they meant the shoreline to look like a shark’s back with that inlet standing in for the shark fin, it’s a cute in-joke. Too bad it merely points up how lackluster this film is.
45: I predict Rude, Authority-Figure Sheriff turns out to be an okay guy who dies in the big Failed Rescue Attempt. How? He has a helicopter, and helicopters have been known to tow stranded boats. (In movies, anyway.)
46: Red-Highlights Guy (his name is Duncan) has made an Unwanted Sexual Advance. He’s so dead. Plus, it was made on his best friend’s girl. Hello, special effects? I’d like to order one Especially Horrible Death. I’ll need that sometime in the last twenty minutes or so. Thanks.
56: Duncan has a “comic” scared reaction to the creature’s approach. That’s a death exemption for the remainder of the scene. Now, about his death. If he has an apology/confession scene, it means he will have a chance to redeem himself in a noble sacrifice before death. Either way, he’s Croc-o-Crispies.
1 hour, 3 minutes: Egyptian artifacts always explain the ultra-mundane.
1 hour, 5 minutes: Sheriff says, “Gator, crocodile, what’s the difference?” And you got to be sheriff in a swampy jurisdiction precisely how?
1 hour, 7: An ugly, older, secondary character with a vendetta against the creature will never be allowed to kill it. He’s a crocolate bar.
1:9: Vendetta Guy holds up a (ahem) severed head and says, “I can’t tell you how bad this is, sheriff.” Is he talking about the special effects? (And did they DELIBERATELY set up that line? MST3K is canceled. Don’t count on any residuals from that show, people.)
1:14: That was the nastiest, ugliest thing I’ve seen in a long time: the political attack ads during the commercials. Hurry up, November 8!
1:15: Man, these kids are just one stedicam away from The Blair Witch Project.
1:23: A croc point-of-view shot. Say, if a creature has eyes on the sides of its head, how do they go eyes-front for a P.O.V.?
1:25: Hair of Many Colors Chick is now a serving of Count Crocula. Admit it: You haven’t seen a creature where victims have to obligingly crawl into its maw since The Creeping Terror.
1:26: Okay, the dog has survived several perilous encounters and made it this far. The dog lives to the end. (But I’m betting the annoying owner goes into the croc-pot.)
1:36: Duncan is wounded but lives. It’s official. Redeeming death sacrifice. Let’s see how close I can get to his dialogue: “I can’t make it. You two go on. I’ll hold it off. Go!”
1:48: Right about the sheriff, wrong about the copter.
1:49: I’m betting they just happened to wash up right at the base of the Deserted Mansion.
1:52: Duncan has his confession scene. Is it too late for me to take out a large life-insurance policy on him?
1:56: The croc threw up? All right, Duncan, you hair-highlighting, “Blair Witch”-type whining, wheelbarrow-riding, to-the-credits-surviving S.O.B., I got just two things to say: One, you have that effect on everybody. Two, we just can’t swallow this, either.
Final tally: Got first two victims and three out of four survivors right. Right about sheriff and Vendetta Guy. Wrong about the helicopter and the Big Finish. (They couldn’t afford anything but outdoor scenery.) They fooled me on Duncan, though they waited way too long into the movie to get clever. The entire film prior to then had been so predictable that I admit being lulled into not expecting any surprises. And wrong about the creature’s death. Two demerits for not realizing that when a monster is also a mother, there’s a strong chance of a sympathetic ending. Overall, just another Jaws imitation with the “who’s next to die?” plot of a slasher flick. It doesn’t work on either level.
And to think that that mutt Princess got to survive, but Old Yeller had to die. Poor Old Yeller. Why should a Princess, a horse, a rat have life and thou no breath at all?
In my admittedly somewhat limited experience with giant animal movies I have developed two opinions, or prejudices, as it were, that always lead me to expect a rather tedious viewing experience. I first maintain that movies featuring wild and/or gigantic animals are, by their choice of antagonist, not frightening. Gigantic insects, jellyfish and paramecia can be frightening, but only because these creatures blown up to gargantuan dimensions are so totally alien in appearance. Wild animals, on the other hand, are reassuringly easy to domesticate and/or anthropomorphize. We’ve thrilled to mutant, greedy-businessman-mauling grizzly bears appearing in films, but we’ve also been amused by the corresponding trick circus bear cavorting around like a playful two-ton puppy. Giant lizards are even worse in this regard and seem abnormally susceptible to anthropomorphization. Giant lizards are now firmly associated with Japanese stuntmen in rubber suits wrestling other goofy monsters to save the children of Tokyo. All this is merely to say that giant animal movies are not horror movies in the usual sense. Being bisected by a crocodile’s ravenous maw or being pecked to death by a gigantic stewing hen may be terrible ways to go, but they are not frightening in the same way that, say, being sucked dry by a basketball-sized tick is.
A logical consequence of my first prejudice is that a successful giant animal movie must primarily be a thriller in the mode of Jaws. After all, there is nothing otherworldly about a big toothy fish, either, but Jaws doesn’t pretend to be a horror movie. The drawback to making a giant animal thriller, however, should be obvious by the nature of the prototype itself. Jaws somehow managed to distill all the necessary elements of this kind of film into one perfect little bracing nip of hootch. Every necessary character, every essential clichÃˆ, every fundamental plotline, are all here in one perfect little package. In the mind of God exists the perfect Platonic ideal of a killer animal on the rampage movie, and Jaws is that movie’s shadow on our earthly cave wall.
Because of this, there is almost no room at all for anything new or original in a movie of this type. Just note that if the screenwriter brings in some pointy-headed expert on the giant animal, it’s hard to keep from comparing said character to Hooper in the original. Bring in your Captain Ahab questing to put the thing away for good, and everyone’s mind recalls Captain Quint. Finally, the law and/or authority gets involved at some point and were all comparing the poor schlub to Brody. Even more hampering is setting your giant animal opus on or near the water. Water means going out on the water in boats, getting attacked by said creature while on board, etc., etc. The only room for originality in that scenario is leaving out the compressed air tank.
This then is a synopsis of the problems faced by the reckless makers of the film Crocodile. While the movie is not totally inept and charmless, why didn’t the guys who made it think about these problems beforehand? First, a giant crocodile is just not scary in the least. Sure the thing is loud and has a big toothy mouth, but so does Julia Roberts! Furthermore, as I mentioned above, how long can the screenwriter avoid reshooting big chunks of Jaws when the whole movie is set on or about the water? The answer, surprisingly, is more than thirty or forty minutes, but not a whole lot more than that.
The movie starts with our male lead, Brady, and his thick-witted friend, Duncan, driving to meet some friends from college for an outing on Lake Sobek. The actor who plays Duncan has an uncanny resemblance to an off-Broadway Brendon Fraser. The actor who is playing Brady bears what must be for him an uncomfortable resemblance to Bert Convy. My VCR starting recording this film a minute or two late, so I missed some of the no-doubt gripping backstory here. All I know is that some past transgression will prove to be an embarrassment to Brady. Later we will learn that Brady and Duncan have been expelled from college for cheating. Brady’s girlfriend Claire is to be met at the dock.
It is at this point that credits begin to role. They will continue to role on and off through most of the set-up described below. None of the names of the cast rolling by are familiar to me, but someone really needs to tell the lady appearing here as Sommer Knight that her moniker is better suited to actresses appearing in far less TV-friendly fare. For those who need elaboration, I’m thinking of those films that your video-store owner rents from that back room closed to anyone under 21.
After Brady and Duncan arrive at the dock, we are introduced to more Crocodile tidbits in the form of a surprisingly monochromatic bunch of generic college kids. There’s the chubby Kit, who will captain their craft. There’s his girlfriend Annabelle, who is always doting over a yappy little dog named Princess. There’s a slutty girl named Sunny, who we latter learn had some sort of short-lived coupling with the male lead. This was in fact the transgression archly hinted at in the prologue. In a weird bit of casting, there’s a skinny, frizzy-haired guy with earrings named Hubs who reminds me of nothing so much as Skreetch of Saved By The Bell fame gone hard and cynical. Finally, there is a guy named Foster who has a shaved head. This poor guy is clearly deadmeat, since his stubbly pate is his only defining character attribute.
After Brady and Duncan arrive at the dock and greet our prospective croc fodder, Brady’s girlfriend Claire arrives. Claire apparently has reason to dislike Duncan from the time they went to same high school. She seems to know none of the other kids on the outing. While our intrepid crew is jawboning at the dock, the creepy sheriff arrives. Bearing a superficial resemblance to the late Euell Gibbons, the sheriff proceeds to browbeat the college kids about the dangers of drinking and boating. After regaling the kids with stories of past tourists being scraped off of boat propellers, he stalks off to make other tourists feel unwelcome, pausing only long enough to threaten Annabelle’s dog. This is the first of many weird little pseudo-foreshadowing scenes that go nowhere. With the Sheriff so actively hostile, you’d expect some kind of “I’m sick of you crazy kids!” type scene somewhere down the line. In fact the Sheriff will prove quite reasonable and competent for the bulk of the picture. He could have come out chortling affably and wishing everybody well for as much relevance this testy little exchange has for the rest of the film.
Our intrepid boaters now get on what must be the most ungainly watercraft ever constructed. It looks like a backyard tool shed stuck to a raft, and as it skims across the lake, the credits continue to roll. In what will probably be the film’s most frightening moment, we learn that Tobe Hooper (!) directed this thing. We’re a long way from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre I and II, or Poltergeist here, though maybe not so far from his magnum opus, Eaten Alive, which I also understand prominently featured flesh-fed crocodilians.
On board our boxy craft, the kids engage in sundry carefree activities. Brady and Claire are inside the walls of the shed making up the boat’s superstructure trading pleasantries, the sexual tension between them as thick as chile con queso. Clark Gable and Carole Lombard have nothing on these two. Topside, Foster is doing a “body shot” off of the prone Sunny. Eerily mirroring the feelings of this movie’s audience, Hubs sits nearby looking nauseated. One of Hubs endearing character traits is that he spends a good portion of his screen time getting ready to hurl.
That night the screenwriter violates my first law with a vengeance; he attempts to segue into a horror movie. We see our prospective croc-chow sitting around a campfire. Nearby, some local lummoxes coming on screen with fishing poles precipitate the crocodilian rampage promised by the film’s title. One is a big fat guy with a mustache; the other is a gravelly-voiced character actor that I know from other films, although I don’t know which ones specifically. Ironically, given their future trip through a reptilian colon, they enter talking about colons and the relative permeability of same to fiber. Upset at local environmental regulations closing down the local factory, they come across a nest of football-sized eggs, conjecture that they are the eggs of some endangered species, and proceed to play stooge with them. They toss a few around, crack a few on each other, and push each other down on top of them. It doesn’t take long before the guardian of these eggs shows up, and the mustached guy, standing nearest the lake, is erased from the film by a CGI effect.
Now we are treated to some more of this film’s foreshadowing-that-goes-nowhere. The gravelly-voiced character manages to flee to his car, but a P.O.V. camera is in hot pursuit. Voice-man makes it into his car, but turns around to scream as the croc’s P.O.V. catches up to him. Next we see the small car rolling down an incline into the lake. We don’t see the latest victim pulled from the car, so when I first saw this, I wondered if we were supposed to think that the crocodile was pushing the car down the hill in an effort to drown the guy. Maybe I am making too much of this scene, but we’ve just been treated to Kit’s spiel about crazy old wizards and crocodile gods, so this whole scene led me to believe that we were to suppose that the beast was supernatural in some way. The further course of the film, however, offers nothing else to bear this supposition out – other than the wily reptile’s curiously impenetrable hide.
Back at the campsite this is turning into Friday the 13th, for crying out loud! The resemblance is shoehorned into our consciousness by having audible crocodilian roars prompt Kit, who apparently has some family connection to lake, to spin some hokum about the scary old guy who owned the house on the hill having brought a giant crocodile to the area in an attempt to summon a crocodile god! Apparently the spooky old guy’s son disturbed the crocodile’s eggs and nothing was found of him the next day but his hand. The house on the hill, by the way, is another maddening red herring. It is often in the background of the action, and characters repeatedly point to it and talk about it in hushed tones, but no one goes in it or near it. A strange affliction of Duncan’s is introduced here. The poor guy apparently has clouds of insects perpetually buzzing around his head, just as Pigpen and his clouds of dust visibly surrounding him in the old Peanuts comic strip. He leaves the circle for some bug repellant and provides a false scare by coming back to sneak up on Sunny at the close of the tale. Also during the story, Hubs mugs like he’s in a Keystone Kops movie, rolling his eyes and sticking out his tongue and generally acting like Al Gore in a presidential debate. The sap is clearly angling to be the stock character that’s so annoying and/or cowardly and/or villainous that we crave his demise.
The sun rises on our group of college kids. For one of them, this day will be their last spent outside a crocodile’s small intestine. While Kit lolls around in an inner tube, and the girls look on from the dock, the men toss around a football while standing roughly ankle deep in shallow, stagnant water. While the football is thrown around a crocodile’s nictitating eye looks on. There’s some more false scare-producing horseplay on the part of Duncan, while Princess runs off to find the nearby, ravaged crocodile nest. The men follow Princess to the nest. Showing marginally more respect for wildlife than that shown by the formerly loutish fishermen, the kids examine and then toss the eggs around a little bit. The Skreetchy Hubs and Duncan, however, carry an unbroken egg away from the nest and back to their camp.
A humble instrument of hoary fate, Hubs sets in place the conceit that will carry us to the end of the picture. After Claire chews him out for taking an egg from the nest, Hubs churlishly seeks his revenge by stuffing the egg in Claire’s backpack. He has nefariously planned this as a booby trap. Not breaking the egg himself, he assumes that when someone picks the thing up and casually drops it to the deck or tosses it into a closet, Claire will open it up and stick her hand into a big old glob of albumin. Brady upbraids Hubs for messing around with the pack, and is treated to more of Hubs’ mugging. I hope I’m not giving anything away by letting slip the fact that our eponymous beasty isn’t going to let these kids out of her sight as long as they maintain that backpack in their possession. In fairness to the screenwriter, I’ll discuss this plot point a little later when it caught up to me. Let me just say that if you’re wondering why someone would insist on lugging a full backpack around while pursued by a bloody great crocodile, you’re way ahead of where I was at this point in the film.
Intercut with scenes of the kids at their camp is some footage of the sheriff sitting in a grounded helicopter with the rotor spinning in the background while he talks to someone on the radio. Whoops! Actually, I think we’re supposed to think that he is flying around in the helicopter, looking for the missing fisherman from the night before. Well, maybe we can but some of our backs are breaking out here from trying to suspend our disbelief. Footage of the sheriff sitting in a grounded helicopter shares screentime with some of the most terrifying scenes in the entire film. Yes, it’s time for a character-building moment between the two romantic leads. Claire and Brady have left the camp to go off alone into the woods for some spooning. I don’t want to be too hard on our leads at this point. I seem to recall seeing the actress playing Claire in other movies as well, but none come immediately to mind. While she may not be most people’s idea of a raving beauty, she has an interesting, pleasantly attractive face that the camera seems to like if not love. As for the male lead, well he’s certainly no more wooden than that bundle of kindling I keep near my fireplace. Actually, both of them provide a reasonably passable imitation of two moon-struck college kids. The real agony here comes from the realization that this is all such blatant padding. I mean this is a giant crocodile movie for crying out loud! We know these two are attached, so why can’t the script just leave it at that, and not force these two to go through their chops like they’re putting on some high school drama club version of Anna Karennina.
After a heaping helping of this kissy-face, we return to the campfire for a reprise of the prior night’s revelry. It is here that the truly unnecessary Sunny subplot raises its scaly head. Expansive feelings are the norm as it’s clear that many present have consumed more than their share of adult beverages. Mercifully, the grating Hubs is ready to pass out, sparing us any more of his mugging. Sunny, thoroughly waxed as she is, however, spills the beans about her fling with Brady. Claire’s reaction to this revelation seemed somewhat disproportionate when I first viewed this film. Claire stalks off in high dudgeon. Brady follows her to the cheese box on a raft that is their shelter, but Claire orders him to sleep alone that night.
This whole sideline is another annoying example of the screenwriter either trying too hard to create drama, or less admirably, striving to stretch out the running time, and confusing the hell out of us to boot. Since the start of this expedition, there has been no indication on the part of Brady that he has the least bit of interest in Sunny. It’s certainly not as if he’s sneaking away from Claire in the middle of the night for some furtive on-deck coupling. If this was some long ago relationship, maybe Brady wasn’t completely honest about it with Claire, but still her reaction to the news would seem a trifle exaggerated. I can believe stony silence, or moping, or the old “What’s wrong?” – (sigh) “Nothing” routine, but total hostility in this situation seems a bit much. On repeat viewings, however, I came to believe that we are supposed to think that this affair took place while Claire and Brady were an item. If this is the case her reaction makes more sense, but since Claire doesn’t seem to know anyone else on the trip, how long could the two of them have been a couple?
In any event, mission fulfilled I guess – if the mission was to give me a headache – and the story lumbers forward. Brady is consigned to sleep out on the deck of this tiny ship, while those who are able stumble back for the night. Hubs has passed out, and rather than stir him, our motley crew decides to leave him be. They all return to the boat and nod off; trying to get whatever sleep their booze-addled bodies will allow. At this point in the film we realize there is no going back – no chance of returning to the safe, sane world we inhabit – without emotional scars. The killer crocodile is ready to enact her vengeance on our hapless coeds. All that remains is for the grating Hubs to return to a semblance of consciousness. Stewed to the gills, he stumbles down the dock to the pleasure craft. The gangplank is up, however, and he falls down at the end of dock to yawn chunkily, if you get my meaning. So gripping is this scene one could easily be forgiven for believing it was the devil herself, taking the form of a quickly disappearing CGI effect, that rises from the lake to snap up the poor goof and about eight feet of pier. Hubs’ impending digestion has the secondary effect of severing the mooring rope that held the floating trailer to the dock, and the inebriated collegians drift off to their impending doom.
Our awkward craft meanders through the lake that night and runs aground far from the revelers’ campsite. Upon awaking – darn good and hung over I hope, these young rapscallions – they begin to assess their predicament. The absence of the annoying Hubs is probably cause for delight. The absence is easily explained, however, by the last aboard last night leaving him passed out on shore. The boat’s propeller has become fouled by mud and whatever loathsome vegetation flourishes around the shore of mephitic Lake Sobek. Kit and Foster begin trying to clear the propeller, while the others try to wile away the rest of the day. Banter between Brady and Claire turns frosty.
At this point in the proceedings we have crossed another line. From now on it will become increasingly difficult for the screenwriter to present us with anything original. This becomes clear when we again cut to the Sheriff. Even though the helicopter he’s sitting in still hasn’t left the ground, he is able to intuit the presence of the fishermen’s car under the water. We the viewers can’t even see the thing, and we’re watching the stock footage of a lake that he isn’t. I tell you, the guy is a regular Jeanne Dixon. Having spotted the car in his mind’s eye, the helicopter (ahem!) sets down to let the Sheriff examine the scene. The fishermen were killed near the croc’s nest, as you’ll recall, and near this alleged car the Sheriff also comes across the nest sans any intact eggs. The filmmakers are also sans original ideas, as the Sheriff also comes across a disembodied hand crawling with either bugs or small shellfish. For those of you who haven’t seen a movie in the last 30 years, there was a little seen film about a great big shark that started exactly the same way.
Back at the boat, the time wasting little subplot with Brady and Sunny is coming to an oily little head. Still in the doghouse with Claire, Brady wonders away from the boat, closely followed by Sunny. Back at the boat, Duncan makes a lewd suggestion to Claire, and gets a good hard slap for his efforts. Sunny catches up to Brady and comes on to the big boob. Sunny proceeds to offer him a taste of her well-worn charms by removing her bra, walking into the lake, and entreating him to follow her in. Just as the TV censor’s finger is hovering over the pixelation button, ready to obscure a part of Sunny’s anatomy sure to be visible if she stands up in her wet T-shirt, our titular menace raises her scaly head and saves him the headache. Roaring, wide-mouthed, but somewhat lethargic, the croc drives Sunny from the water screaming. Sunny and Brady race back to the boat to warn their fellow castaways, while the crocodile languorously follows behind.
Those left on the boat, however, are slow to react. Foster is below inside the boat’s enclosure when the croc busts through the bottom of the boat. Grabbing an axe, he ineffectually bounces a couple of blows off the beast’s head. The croc’s epidermis displays a rather surprising resistance to forged steel, and the luckless Foster only manages to infuriate the raging reptile further. The tremors set off by the shabby ship imploding knock Annabelle over the rail surrounding the boat’s topmost deck. Kit manages to pull her back aboard, but only in so that he, Claire, and Annabelle can jump off again into the water before the crazy craft disintegrates. Rather strangely, I thought, the girls swim a markedly different path back to shore than Kit does after they all jump in the water. Maybe this is a variation on the old bear joke, the girls thinking that the somewhat doughy Kit would be a far more tempting tidbit for the croc than their own tough and gristly selves. Despite the divergent paths, however, all three make it safely to shore. The same cannot be said for the unfortunate Foster, however. Looking back to the lake to see their ride implode rather impressively, the survivors see the crocodile rise above the surface of the lake with the late Foster in her maw. So long, my glabrous friend, we hardly knew ya’!
We now cut back the Sheriff. Having intuited the nature of the menace facing him, he has pulled up in front of the local ‘gator farm. When he walks into the main building, he is confronted by a wide range of bizarre and, ultimately, absolutely irrelevant stuff. There is the expected alligator related paraphernalia, but also what look like fetuses and giant frogs in jars of formaldehyde! There’s also a collection of little Egyptian sarcophagi. Their presence will soon, but pointlessly, be explained. While the Sheriff calls out for Shirkin, the goofy old codger who runs the place, in walks Lester, Shirkin’s assistant, trying to stanch the blood gushing from his injured hand. He explains this by pointing out that alligators don’t like to have their teeth brushed! The Sheriff demands that Shirkin comes out to talk, and Shirkin leaves his back room. He comes out with his mouth stuffed with chew, spitting tobacco juice.
The sheriff shows him one of the eggshells he found near the severed hand and accuses Shirkin of letting one of his ‘gators get loose. Shirkin stalks outside to his alligator pens and boldly steals a ‘gator egg from the nest of the nearby, expectant mother. The ‘gator egg is not much bigger than a chicken egg, where as the Sheriff’s egg is the size of a French baguette. Shirkin now launches into full Captain Quint mode, about how big the crocodile that laid this egg is, how mean and merciless she is, how much help the Sheriff will need, how dead and lifeless her eyes are, how he was a sailor on the U.S.S. Indianapolis, yadda, yadda. To cement Shirkin in the Captain Ahab role that he is so clearly meant to play, we now learn that he is in fact the great-grandson of the spooky old guy who owned the house on the hill that we heard about from Kit! Yes, Shirkin knows that this is the crocodile that killed his grandfather, the owe that he and his father have pursued all these years. This explains all the oddball stuff that Shirkin keeps in his parlor.
We cut back to kids striking out through the woods to find a road that Kit claims runs around the lake, and follow it back to find help. The leisurely croc has vanished for the moment to savor its lunch. As they set off, the Sheriff and Shirkin are back at the original crocodile nesting site. Some poor guy has been dragging the lake for body parts that should be connected to the hand the Sheriff found. They open a cooler to see what he has found so far. Shirkin takes one look at the very much less-than-convincing severed head of Hubs, and knows the croc is on the loose. Providing a poor man’s Hooper role in addition to the Quint role, he knows that since the croc didn’t finish her meal, she’s not killing for food, she’s killing for vengeance.
Next comes the movie’s most repulsive sequence. We see Lester, Shirkin’s assistant from the ‘gator farm, pushing a wagonload full of dead chickens. He is going out to see the crocodile, and he begs it to kill Shirkin as he tosses it chickens. Let’s leave aside the question as to how in the hell Lester even knew where the crocodile was. What is truly grotesque about this is Lester’s going on about how he can’t take life with Shirkin anymore, how he can’t take the buggery anymore! After his pleading, when the chickens run out, the croc swallows him. What sort of twisted wrinkle is this to add to the plot? When did this guy start working at the ‘gator farm? Are we supposed to think Shirkin has been molesting him since he was a boy?
Even if that’s not the case the character as written is extremely dull-witted, almost as if the screenwriter intended him to be retarded. But that just makes the whole thing worse, as we might be supposed to assume that Shirkin is sexual abusing the mentally handicapped. I truly can’t imagine what the screenwriter was thinking with this. Why can’t Shirkin just be some eccentric, old, pint-sized Captain Ahab? What does the possibility that he’s a pervert add to this film? The only way I can think of to defend this is by positing that this may once have been intended as a completely different kind of film. With all the supernatural, crocodile god guff, maybe this Shirkin was supposed to be some crazed wizard bent on summoning or controlling it. The mysterious house, the impenetrable hide, super-intelligence, all mentioned above, may have been holdovers from this original supernatural story line. If I’m wrong about this, all I can say is you have a most sad and cynical outlook on life, Mr. Screenwriter.
Mercifully, this ends quickly and we cut back to out-takes from The Blair Witch Project. Whoops! I’m wrong again. Rather it is our cast of college kids wandering through the woods searching for that road Kit told them about. It is dark now, and they are equipped with one or two flashlights. Tensions simmering just below the surface have erupted in the face of adversity, and recriminations fly. In addition to recriminations, profanity also flies. Since I saw this on TV, the profanity could not be freely expressed. Instead of audibly bleeping the salty language or over-dubbing silly sounding insults, the USA network took the expedient of simply shutting off the audio track entirely when someone swears. The sound track shuts off so often during these scenes; the viewer just tuning in would be justifiably concerned that he was going deaf.
Intercut with scenes of the kids wandering the woods are scenes of Shirkin and the Sheriff out on the water, crocodile hunting. They have chosen to take out the smallest possible flat-bottomed boat you can think of that isn’t propelled by two pairs of foot peddles. Out on the lake, Shirkin spins more tales of his and his family’s run-ins with the giant croc. He and his father apparently saw the beast while out fishing one night. The next night the old man goes out to check traps, and he never comes back. So now we’re supposed to think this thing has killed the guy’s grandfather and father both. Sorry, Captain Quint, I bet the things going to make a clean sweep of the Shirkin family. They also take time to point at that damn house up on the hill and comment on that again. Again I say, if you’re not even going near the place, forget about it already.
Cutting back to the kids, our stealthy pile of croc flesh is waiting to put more characters out of our misery. That little furball, Princess, leaps out of Annabelle’s arms and runs off into the woods. She runs right in front of our lollygagging ‘gator-cousin, rousing her to action and causing the kids to flee. Again, we get the running in all directions stuff, but since there seems to be only one or two flashlights, several of our crew are running blindly into the dark woods. Sunny, in particular, runs smack dab into a low-lying branch and gets her foot hopelessly entangled. The croc must have a taste for bony fare, as she hightails it over to where Sunny is caught. Sunny, trying to remain inconspicuous in the darkened woods, starts screaming at the top of her lungs. Claire looks on while the croc dines on Sunny. Brady runs up behind Claire and leads her back into the woods. At this point in the film, the croc is starting to linger over her meals for an inordinate amount of time. At the start of the film, we saw her wolf down a guy who had 50 pounds on William Conrad. Sunny shouldn’t take any longer going down the old gullet than Callista Flockheart would. Maybe the lily-white nature of the cast is to blame. After all there’s certainly no Chinese or Latin food on offer, so maybe she’s just tired of eating the same thing over and over. In any event, while the croc dilly-dallies over dinner, the rest of the survivors all manage to find one another again, and they hastily leave the area.
Shortly thereafter our desperate coeds find not only the road, but also a convenience store. They enter the store and enjoy the momentary illusion of security. They even come across a shotgun that’s been left conveniently loaded behind the store’s counter. Annabelle, on the verge of nervous collapse, seeks out the bathroom and takes Princess into it with her. Our first thought is not only that she has to pee, but also that we will be unwilling witnesses to it. In fact she merely closes the door and sits forlornly on the toilet – said toilet’s lid being down. The croc chooses this moment to poke her scaly head right through the bathroom wall. Annabelle and Princess make it out the bathroom door, but it does Annabelle no good. She is summarily swallowed just outside of it. The croc proceeds to demolish the store. The extra operating the prop crocodile tail smashes shelves. The extra operating the prop crocodile head menaces the remaining coeds. Kit runs in terror out of the store and into a nearby truck. Duncan picks up the shotgun and squeezes off a blast, but the prop head smacks him into what looks like a bin full of fruit. To add insult to injury, the croc clamps down good and hard on one of Duncan’s legs. It looks like curtains for the Dunc-ster, but Brady who fires a few more ineffectual shotgun blasts at its snout distracts the croc.
Sensing beefier fare outside the convenience store, the croc leaves the convenience store. I’m not sure if an implication is being made that Kit is being cowardly. After fleeing the store and jumping into the truck, he attempts to hot-wire the thing. In the circumstances, a motorized vehicle would be just to thing to enable a getaway. [Editor’s Note: This also raises the question, which I admit I should have thought of earlier myself, why didn’t they try to start the truck when they initially found the store?] Whether Kit was going to flee in terror and leave the others to their fate, or was ready to go back to get them, will remain a mystery. The rampaging croc, outside the store, knocks over a big tank full of clear liquid. You don’t have to be Nostradamus to guess that the liquid is most likely flammable. When the croc further knocks down a nearby light pole, she sets off a spark that ignites the liquid. The truck and the poor, meaty knucklehead within go up in flames. The croc, disturbed by the blast, turns into a two-dimensional CGI effect and scurries off.
The survivors carry on. Duncan is no longer ambulatory, so he must be pushed along in a wheelbarrow taken from the store. While Brady pushes, Duncan complains loudly about how rough the ride is. He stridently tells Brady to watch the leg. When finally Brady reaches the point of physical exhaustion, Duncan loudly demands that Claire takeover. Let’s just say that Duncan is gravely reducing his chance of making it through this movie. Duncan is so laughably obnoxious during this scene, I couldn’t help but think of the scene in Hot Shots: Part Deux in which Rowen Atkinson requires Charlie Sheen to carry him to safety because his shoelaces are tied together.
Fortunately, Duncan’s grousing is cut short. The Sheriff and Shirkin, boating out on the lake, spot the blazing convenience store and motor toward it. While doing this they spot our three survivors on the shore and head over to take them aboard. It’s been light for the past few scenes, so I think we can suppose that its now early morning. Once our ragtag trio are aboard, however, the croc again raises its scaly head. This is where the whole crocodile-hunting-in-a-tiny-little-boat plan shows its flaws. Shirkin is quite adamant that the Sheriff’s gun will be ineffective against the croc. He pulls out what looks to be some antique large caliber gun. The shots he squeezes off seem to ricochet right off the beast’s steely hide. “She’s gone under the boat!” Shirkin wails. Well, maybe if you didn’t go out in a boat that was only three-quarters as big as the thing’s head, Mr. Crocodile-Expert, you wouldn’t be so surprised at this turn of events. To make a long story short, the croc jostles the boat, Shirkin topples into the water, and is chomped before he can be pulled back aboard.
So engorged with Shirkin-flesh is the croc that it once again turns into a two-dimensional CGI effect and leaps up over the boat to land with a splash on the other side. The boat’s motor has apparently been stalled out by the croc’s attack, and the Sheriff goes aft to restart it. The most unconvincing CGI effect we’ve seen so far rears up out of the water. The filmmakers have either truly over-reached at this point or they were trying to pay an unusual tribute to Sheri Lewis, as the CGI croc resembles nothing so much as a monstrous green Lambchop hand puppet. In any event, the Sheriff and much of the boat’s rear vanish in a fetid, red cloud. The assault on the Sheriff has also caused fuel to burst forth from the motor and set the boat ablaze.
Given that the boat is ablaze, Brady’s bunch [Further Editor’s Note: I can’t believe no one else made that joke!] must again dive into the lake for a desperate swim back to shore. The croc is still lingering over the Sheriff, however, so she lets all three make it safely. These ‘swims back to shore’ are an unusual aspect of this movie. We’ve seen two of them now and neither one has ended with a croc attack. Being a big, ungainly semi-aquatic animal, one would think that the croc would prefer to go after prey that was nearby in the water rather than following said prey deep into the woods. Since Duncan has had his leg crushed by the beast already and by all rights should be unconscious and in shock rather than swimming back to shore, the croc should be happy as a clam that such easy pickings are at hand. All I can say is that if the screenwriter was hoping to trick us into forgetting Jaws by setting almost all the attacks on land, it isn’t working.
After reaching the shore, our trio assesses their situation. Duncan is immobile; hell, since he’s had the lower half of his leg crushed by a giant crocodile, four zillion pounds of pressure, or what ever Shirkin was babbling about earlier, and he has gone without medical treatment for the past several hours, he should be dead. Since he is inconveniently clinging to both life and consciousness, Claire and Brady are unable to abandon him to his fate in good conscience. All that remains is to make a last stand. Brady looks around for something that can be used as a weapon. Given the whole elephant gun-sized bullets bouncing of the croc’s hide thing, Duncan is probably right to point out how useless anything that they have at hand will be. Just where is that McGuyver guy when you need him? If they had a tin can lid, a piece of chewing gum, and a pointed stick he could probably put together a flame-thrower for them. While searching for a weapon in Claire’s bag, Brady finally comes across the croc’s egg hidden away in the bottom. It is at this point that the absurdity of this conceit finally clubbed me on the noggin. Claire has jumped twice from watercraft just prior to their destruction, has hiked all night long though the woods, and pushed around a wounded man in a wheelbarrow just after fleeing a roaring gasoline fire. You can leave the #*$%& backpack behind already! What’s she carrying around in there? The crown jewels? Nuclear missile launch codes?
Well, what’s done is done, Brady thinks resignedly. His plan is to use the egg as bait, while the trio lie in ambush with sticks sharpened with the penknife found in Claire’s backpack. Yes, the plan seems to provide but little chance for success, but its all we’ve got folks! In retrospect, it seems that there is no reason Brady and Duncan can’t send Claire off by herself while they wait near the egg. Presumably, the croc would come for them first, providing Claire with the possibility of escape. This idea actually doesn’t even come up at all. We’re not even treated to any of the usual “I’m not leaving you alone” stuff from Claire. However, since we’re almost done here, people, let’s just be grateful for anything that gets us through this faster.
The egg is placed in the middle of a clearing, while the three survivors wait around the perimeter. Finally, who knows how much latter, the slothful croc shows up to collect her egg, kick ass, and take names. Rather counter-intuitively, to say the least, Brady leaps from hiding to attack the thing with a sharpened stick! The croc hurls him into some nearby logs, nearly knocking the poor sap cold. Next, Princess puts in an appearance, leaping through the air and passing unharmed through the croc’s jaws! The croc must now be thoroughly confused, as she lets Duncan try to cinematically redeem himself for his earlier boorish behavior. Seeing that the croc is distracted, Duncan leaps on the crocodile’s snout and covers its eyes with a sweatshirt! It was earlier established that that Australian lunatic on cable TV handles crocs in this way on his Animal Planet TV show. “It’s working”, yells Duncan in between squeals of terror. Actually, it’s not working well, because the croc throws him high in the air, backpedals, and swallows the unctuous morsel whole.
The croc now turns to the toothsome Claire. In one of the films funniest bits, the croc steps back, starts gagging, and actually hocks up Duncan’s carcass. Don’t worry, though. He’s not dead – not even all that worse for wear – merely slimy with digestive juices. Yes, the guy is such an unpalatable character that not even a crocodile can choke him down. As a later laughable explanation for this, we learn that Duncan owes his salvation to his constant use of bug repellent. His pasty hide is so saturated with pesticides that he is literally poisonous when taken internally. After Duncan’s regurgitation, Claire picks up the egg and holds it in front of the croc’s face, while the croc opens her mouth wide and growls at her. I like how Claire here, rather than just cowering in fear, instead yells in terror at the top of her lungs each time the croc opens her jaws. I guess I can’t say I’d do any differently myself.
Just at this point, however, a flap in the strangely flexible egg peels back and out pops a baby croc. The tiny bugger jumps into its mother’s mouth, and flushed with pride, momma turns one last time into a CGI effect. She heads back to the lake and swims away back to her nest, where no doubt she’s socked away a finger or two for the youngun’ to snack on. The lives of the trio have been spared and their audible sighs of relief are matched by our audible sighs of relief at the film being nearly over. Their relief should be tempered by the fact that they might have to transport a crippled and soon to be unconscious man for scores of miles through the woods in order to get him medical attention before he dies of shock, but our relief is palpable when the credits start rolling.
Afterthoughts on CGI
When I first saw the promo for Crocodile, I was expecting to pan it for its over-reliance on CGI effects. After watching the film, however, I radically reversed my assessment on its use of same. I have taken a dim view of this computerized filmmaking after seeing CGI effects ruin a pair of films that should have been enjoyable little diversions, Deep Blue Sea and House on Haunted Hill. I don’t want to argue the relative merits of these films, or whether or not either of them had a chance of being all that good anyway. Still, ever since seeing these two films fall apart, I have held a very negative opinion of CGI in thriller/horror films. The problem with these films is that the filmmakers tried to cut corners by using CGI for the films’ gore effects. I’m not trying to defend the use of gore in films here, either. Many of the goriest films made are also among the worst movies ever made. Rather, I am saying that once the decision has been made to include graphic material as part of the storyline, the money needs to be spent on giving it the maximum visceral impact by making it as realistic as possible. In the old days, when films skimped in this regard, the result was immediately derisory. Goofy rubber heads and mouths full of ketchup are the stuff from which the most Jabootuish of fare is made.
In present times when the filmmakers skimp by using CGI, however, the result is not necessarily silly, merely utterly flat and unconvincing. More than anything else, the film starts to resemble some video game intro, pinging along flashily until someone presses the start button. And if gore is utterly unconvincing, then the question is legitimately raised as to whether the film needs to be gory at all. The movie Deep Blue Sea was doomed by CGI for exactly this reason. The film is an utterly formulaic thriller about super-smart, genetically altered sharks decimating the crew of an underwater research station. The decision was made to render a bunch of shark attacks with CGI effects. Instead of disturbing images of people being torn apart by sharks which may have produced a frission of fear in the audience and distracted us from the utterly derivative storyline, we are treated to cartoon shark attacks – images that are no more disturbing than seeing Daffy Duck getting his beak blown up on top of his head after one of his wacky schemes goes awry.
The recent remake of House on Haunted Hill also falls apart completely due to CGI effects. Up until the very end, the film is a reasonably diverting variation on the original Vincent Price camp classic – no masterpiece, but a reasonable time-waster. At the end, however, instead of following the original storyline, the film ends with a phony phantom touching people and turning them into lifeless two-dimensional computer images of themselves which pixilate into ashes. Just like Deep Blue Sea, the decision was made to try to scare the audience with elaborate gory effects, while simultaneously doing the effects on the cheap. Presently the state of the art is just not good enough to get away with this. Once the gore effects that the movie is centered around are found wanting, all the other problems with the film are put into a much starker relief.
Crocodile, however, cannot be accused of sinking itself by this approach to CGI. I’m not sure the film was ever intended to be gory at all, even though the abundant profanity would have assured an R-rating in the theater. The only scenes in the film that are the least bit gory are the discovery of the severed hand and the collection of extremely phony-looking body parts found by the Sheriff’s dredger. The croc’s maw and tail are definitely real three-dimensional props, and even if the film were intended to be gorier than it is, the gore would probably have been based around the prop mouth. Any A-movie expense in Crocodile as filmed would have come from trying to mock up a Crocodile prop that could be shown convincingly capering and jumping around the set – chasing down co-eds, fleeing from explosions, leaping over boats, etc. Rendering scenes of the ravenous crocodile scampering about with CGI actually proves to be a good idea in a B movie like this. While a couple of scenes mentioned in passing above are far from convincing, for the most part the views of the croc scurrying around between attacks are no less convincing than a lot of run-of-the-mill Hollywood blue screen effects. While trying to emulate Crocodile for its compelling, soul-searching storyline, witty repartee, and steamy romance would be a grievous error, a lot of moviemakers would be well served by emulating its conservative use of the CGI technology.
- You know you are really in trouble in a movie when you are not even 2 minutes in and already you see shots that are cheap rip-offs of shots from an earlier, better movie. Yep, the movie opens with shots of frolicsome tourists at an ocean-side resort… just like Jaws.
- The movie’s main plot features a bunch of teens going off on a jaunt on a houseboat. The teens include Brady, the hunky guy who looks kinda like Ray Liotta; Duncan, the doofus; and Claire, Brady’s ex.
- So it turns out that Sunny the slut has come along so she could put the moves to Brady, who she has the hots for, but Duncan invited along Claire, correctly figuring that she & Brady would fall into each others arms, leaving the way clear for him to make a play for Sunny. Hey, am I watching a giant crocodile movie or Passions?
- Note the absolute lack of acting the guy playing the sheriff does in his early scenes. It’s the high point of his performance.
- One of the girls on the houseboat takes along ‘Princess’, one of those impossibly cute little barky dogs (I think it’s a Shih Tzu). [Editor’s Note: Gesundheit! Thank you, folks, I’m appearing all this week at The Laff Factory in Akron, Ohio!] Princess is featured prominently in every scene she is in, probably because she’s the best actor in the film.
- The early beach scenes looked like they were clearly set on some sort of warm coastal region, but the houseboat is meandering up a river that sports a suspicious amount of evergreens. Then, later on, the sheriff is shown flying over something that looks like the Snake River Canyon. Where the heck is this place?
- Geez, all the ‘campfire scene with the monster story’ needs to make it a complete rip-off of Friday the 13th is some wild-eyed old coot staggering out of the darkness to bellow, “STAY AWAY FROM CAMP BLOOD!”.
- Is it just me, or does the old broken down hotel look like an old set from “Dark Shadows”?
- Gee, look, two Environmentally Insensitive Buffoons tromping through a wildlife preserve and messing with some critters’ eggs. Wonder what’s going to happen to them?
- The way the croc kills the EIB (see above) who takes refuge in the car has got to be one of the most unintentionally hilarious scenes ever to grace (?) a bad TV movie. Betcha that wouldn’t have happened if the guys had a SUV!
- Back to the obnoxious teens. Gawd, the croc can start chewing on these twits at ANY TIME….
- Sunny blurts out while drunk that she and Brady had a one-night stand. This revelation causes a rift to form between Brady and Claire…. Yawn….
- O.K., the scene where the drunk kid goes to rolf over the side of the dock and instead buys a one-way ticket into the croc’s guts was fairly effective… and one of the few INTENTIONALLY funny moments in the movie…
- Later, Claire talks over her (deadly dull) romantic problems with a friend as Princess watches. Once again, the pooch steals the scene.
- Sunny decides to exercise her seductive powers on Brady by…. going for a swim fully clothed. HUH?!?!
- What’s that swimming croc powered by, an Evinrude? Sheesh, the thing is leaving a wake…
- Love the scene where Princess dives off the top of the houseboat… in slow motion… roughly translated out of dog, her ‘arf, arf’ in this scene means, “GET ME OUT OF THIS SUCKY MOVIE!!!”.
- You know you are really in trouble in a movie when you see shots that are cheap rip-offs of shots from an earlier bad movie. People who were not reminded of the bear-vs.-helicopter scene in the late, unlamented Grizzly when the croc trashed the houseboat have NOT watched enough bad movies…
- Dang, looks like poor Princess couldn’t escape the flick after all….
- Watch for the non-acting sheriff to do a Reverse Oscar Goldman. Those of us who saw episodes of the Six Million Dollar Man or The Bionic Woman may fondly recall those iconic scenes where Oscar, having just been informed of some incredibly dramatic plot point, would lean forward and whip off his glasses to emphasize how agog he has just been struck by the information. Here, the sheriff puts his glasses on… and looks like he is attempting to pass gas.
- Oh, look, a bunch of teenagers lost in the woods and yelling at each other. Kind of like The Blair Witch Project if it had been made and acted by half-wits.
- Oh, dear God, before this the movie was just bad, now it has taken a turn into the surreally horrendous. Enter ‘Shirken’, the obsessed croc hunter. Shirken is like what you’d get if you crossed Quint from Jaws, ‘Crocodile’ Dundee, and Jethro Beaudine. Oh, help me Rhonda, yeah…
- It turns out that Shirken wants in on the croc hunt because the evil beast et not only his father, but his GRANDFATHER as well! “Jaws 4: This time it’s PERSONAL!” Oops, wrong bad movie…
- Shirken also has an assistant on his alligator ranch who is apparently mentally challenged. He acts stupid and gets eaten by the crocodile, all within the space of about 5 minutes. And the point to putting him in the movie was…?
- “This crocodile is killing folks not because it’s hungry…it’s on a RAMPAGE!”. Anthromorphization, anyone?
- First the crocodile was by the river terrorizing and eating (not nearly enough) teenagers, now he’s miles inland eating the retarded guy. (No, not the scriptwriter, don’t we wish…) What does this thing have, a built-in teleporter?
- Scenes of the teenagers in the woods arguing, scenes of Duncan getting repeatedly stung by bugs and drowning himself in anti-bug spray, interspersed with scenes of the sheriff and Shirken slowly making their way along the river shining a bright light on shore. Boy, the heart-pounding suspense here is nearly unbearable….zzzzzzzz…….
- And the crocodile comes bursting through the wall of the gas station the kids have taken refuge in! What, was the thing shot out of a cannon?
- A teen tries to escape from the gas station in a truck but only succeeds in blowing it and himself up as the other teens watch in horror. It’s just like what you’d get if The Birds had been made and acted in by half-wits.
- Once again Princess takes the acting honors in a scene and once again runs off to beg her agent to “GET ME OUT OF THIS SUCKY MOVIE!!!”
- So, Shirken and the Sheriff show up to rescue the teens in their boat and both promptly get turned into People Tartar by the crocodile. And the point to their being in the movie was….?
- Hooray! Brady has a plan! They’re gonna tie sweaters around the croc’s head and poke it with sharp sticks! That’ll larn it!
- Speaking of, they finally found the croc egg that Dead Obnoxious Teen #1 slipped into Claire’s backpack way back earlier in the movie. Why not just leave it on the riverbank and beat feet out of there? Or would that make too much sense?
- Showing that no one beats a CGI critter when it comes to hammy overacting, the croc tosses Duncan 15 feet up in the air and then swallows him whole! The only thing the scene needed to make it more complete was a loud belching sound afterwards….
- But wait, there’s more! While Duncan is making his way down the crocodile’s gullet, he spritzed the thing with his Bug-B-Gone spray, causing it to gag him back up! (At this point, the croc isn’t the only one who’s gagging). This would be just like those scenes from Anaconda and Deep Rising where the beasts in them disgorged humans they had swallowed, had those movies been made by…. wait a minute, those movies were ALREADY made by half-wits!
- It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s Super Shih Tzu! Princess either bravely distracts the croc from the endangered teens or makes a last, desperate attempt to get out of this sucky movie through suicide (I vote for the latter) by leaping through the gaping jaws of the ravenous beast! “Here she comes to save the daaaaaay….”.
- Aw, gee, look, the miracle of crocodile birth.
- Darn, I missed out on the credits informing us who composed the schlock – ooops, I mean ROCK songs that bookend the movie. It’s a sure bet we won’t see them on the top 40 anytime soon….
In response to your request for thoughts on USA Network’s “Chow Time” theme week movies, I send in my thoughts on Crocodile to be considered for condensation, along with the thoughts of others, as a NUGGET article. [Editor’s Note: This is Jabootu, damn it! We don’t condense nothin’!]
- The first thing about this movie is a director credit for Tobe Hooper. This can go either way. Mr. Hooper has directed a few films I like, and a few I don’t. We’ll just have to see.
- So far, the setup is that some college students are spending Spring Break at Lake Sobek, where they intend to take a boat to a secluded spot and have fun, which means drinking constantly. Brady and Claire are the couple. Duncan is Brady’s jerk friend, who is not quite so obnoxious as some movie jerks, but he’s up there. Kit is the guy with the boat. Annabelle is Kit’s girlfriend. Princess is Annabelle’s dog. Sunny is the slut. Foster and Hubs are dead meat.
- When the group buys beer, the Sheriff walks by and requests I.D. I guess this is supposed to make him the “evil” sheriff. Or it could establish him as a “good” sheriff. I really can’t tell which one the movie is making him out to be at this point. Such vague direction as this doesn’t bode well for the movie.
- When the Sheriff demands I.D., only Hubs shows his. So I guess in whatever town the movie is set in, it doesn’t matter if under-21s drink beer, so long as one person in the group is of legal age.
- While the group is camping (and drinking heavily), Kit relates the story of the Flat Dog. The Flat Dog is a Nile crocodile that a rich man named Harlan Clements brought home from Africa so he could start a cult of Sobek, the crocodile god. Harlan’s son was jealous of the attention his father gave the croc, so he smashed its eggs, which enraged it and sent it on a killing spree that left dozens dead. Ever since that day in 1903, the Flat Dog has been terrorizing Lake Sobek. I give the movie points for this, because (while a bit absurd) it is a more plausible explanation than “it swam across the ocean,” which was put forth by another crocodile-in-a-lake movie.
- I’ve got to mention that the water here looks warm and like it might support enough prey animals to feed a large crocodile. Which is also unlike that other movie.
- After some animal rights-hating rednecks stumble across the crocodile’s eggs and smash most of them, the crocodile eats them and then . . . pushes their car into the water. It must be smarter than your average croc. And the rednecks must have left the car in neutral. Without the parking brake on. Oh, Mr. Hooper, it was going so well.
- The next day, the Sheriff is patrolling the area in his helicopter (!). This must be a very wealthy town, or the Sheriff himself is wealthy, because helicopters are very expensive to maintain and operate.
- Back at camp, Princess leads everyone to the demolished nest. The drunken jerks proceed to play catch with the few unbroken eggs and, of course, break them. Now, if I found a bunch of eggs the size of grapefruits, I sure wouldn’t mess with them. Such a large clutch of enormous eggs would tend to indicate a very big mother, who would undoubtedly be quite displeased with my squashing of her young if she should perchance return during said squashing. Of course, I wouldn’t be #$!@ing drunk out of my mind, either.
- Hubs puts the one unbroken egg in Claire’s backpack. I wonder if that will turn out to be a mistake.
- That night, they get drunk around the campfire again – Argh! Something happen already! – and Sunny lets it slip that she had sex with Brady. Claire is hurt and angry. This will be important later.
- Hubs is passed out, so everyone decides it would be a good idea to just leave him there on the ground, exposed and unable to regain consciousness. Fortunately, Hubs wakes up before he dies of exposure. Unfortunately, he is eaten by the croc when he leans over to barf off the pier. This is the movie’s most impressive scene, with the croc snapping up Hubs in the blink of an eye. No slow motion for this movie! The attack also severs the mooring rope and the boat drifts away.
- The next day, the boat has run aground and cannot be unstuck. Claire, unable to tolerate being in Brady’s philandering presence, announces that she’s leaving. Uh, Claire, where do you think you’re going? You don’t know where you are and you’re completely unfamiliar with the area. Are you sure you want to risk dying just to be away from Brady?
- Ooh! The sheriff found a severed hand!
- Wow, the croc is using Off-Camera Teleportation™ to keep ahead of Sunny and Brady while they try to warn everyone on the boat!
- Now it’s apparently rendered Duncan temporarily blind, as he’s unable to see it approaching. Darn it all, he still escapes.
- There’s a confusing attack scene. The croc rams the boat. Everyone jumps off the boat except Foster, who grabs an axe. The croc’s head crashes through the underside of the boat. Foster swings at the croc with the axe, probably trying to protect the beer. Brady and the others are on the bank calling for Foster. Back on the boat, Foster has apparently climbed into the croc’s mouth (there’s no other way he got in there like that). A hollow mock-up of the boat falls apart. It sounds straightforward reading it, but it is filmed and edited in a very confusing manner.
- The Sheriff consults Lester and Shirkin, the local gator farmers. Shirkin takes a look at the egg the Sheriff brought in and tells the Sheriff it’s a crocodile egg. He then takes the time to explain some of the differences between crocodiles and alligators, chiefly that crocs are far more aggressive. All of the information he gives is accurate, if commonly known. I am truly impressed. None of that “super animal” nonsense for this movie.
- Meanwhile, the gang is walking about, whining incessantly. Forget sending in the croc to eat them all, that would be too slow. I wish some maniac with a shotgun would run up and blow them all away. Or maybe they could fall in a big hole with bamboo spikes on the bottom. Or the scene could end. Anything, please!
- Hey, I just realized, this segment looks a lot like The Blair Witch Project. Trendy, Mr. Hooper.
- Look, the Sheriff and Shirkin just found Hubs’s head, which has been turned into plastic. Man, that croc must have some serious digestive problems.
- Hmm, methinks this scene with Lester getting eaten by the (off-camera) croc was filmed and inserted in post-production. It just has that feel to it.
- The gang is still wandering about. Look, guys, go to that huge hotel you were making a big deal about earlier. Abandoned it may be, but there must still be a road near it you can follow back to town.
- Why are they running in front of the croc? On land, a crocodile can only run in a more-or-less straight line. I thought that was common knowledge. Come on, swerve! (Hmm, a take on the old “running in front of the car” clichÃˆ, perhaps?)
- While fleeing the croc, Sunny gets “stuck” in some tree roots. Claire finds her. Now, she has plenty of time to rescue Sunny before the croc comes but chooses to watch Sunny get eaten instead. That’ll teach Sunny to sleep with any man of Claire’s! (Remember?)
- So, once inside the general store, Duncan picks up a chainsaw, thinking it would make a great weapon. A little in-joke, Mr. Hooper?
- Let’s see, have we got ineffective emergency service? Check. Have we got everyone lulled into a false sense of security? Check. Do we have at least one person by herself to get eaten? Check. Did the croc smash through a wall and eat said person (Annabelle)? Check.
- The croc really knows how to make a flashy kill. First, it chases Kit into a truck that won’t start. Second, it spills some gasoline. Third, it knocks over a lamp into the fuel and the explosion consumes Kit. Wow.
- When the croc attacks the Sheriff’s boat, Shirkin pulls what appears to be a sawed-off 410 shotgun. In case you don’t know anything about weapons, a 410 shotgun would have a much effect on a crocodile as, say, throwing a pebble at an elephant. Using this was Shirkin’s master plan to kill the Flat Dog? It doesn’t help that he leans over the side and gets eaten.
- Forget what I said about no “super animal” nonsense. The croc jumped over the boat like a dolphin while spinning. Mr. Hooper, did you really have to just give up? Was making this movie that bad for you?
- I can now add boats to the list of vehicles that don’t start when you want them to. Now if I can just find a movie with a zamboni that won’t start . . .
- I find it hard to believe the Sheriff would be dumb enough to lean over the stern to start the motor like he did.
- While Claire was swimming to shore, I noticed that she still had her backpack. Claire! You’re running for your life! Drop the pack, st¯ypit!
- Why, look, the egg is still in Claire’s pack, completely undamaged. Brady decides to use it as bait to lure the croc out so they can . . . kill it with sharp sticks. First of all, Brady, I’d say the real bait would be you, but never mind. Furthermore, the croc has demonstrated more than enough speed and strength to defeat your puny sticks. If I were you, I’d just leave the egg and head inland, where it would not be likely to follow.
- Duncan confesses to getting Brady expelled from college purposely, so that Brady wouldn’t leave him alone. Duncan, you are a jerk. But, hopefully, he can die now that he has had a “character” moment.
- Duncan jumps on the croc’s snout to save Brady. The croc throws Duncan off its head and he comes down near its tail. Then he lands in its open mouth. What? I don’t care, Duncan died.
- Oh, NO! The croc just regurgitated Duncan! Now he’s regained consciousness! Who wrote this? I want to lodge a complaint!
This movie starts off slowly, picks up a little, but ultimately fails. While better than Octopus, and that other croc-in-a-lake movie, it is brought down by frustrating leading characters who act like morons and, even worse, two characters who are competent until they actually meet the croc. If all the gang had died, and the Sheriff and Shirkin had been the ones to defeat the croc, this movie would have been improved tremendously. But you can’t have old people come out on top, can you?