Monday, October 8, 2018

HubrisWeen 2018, Day 3: Crocodile (2000)

If you have been following my reviews for a while now or read them in alphabetical order, you may recall that I once tried to get a copy of Crocodile from my local library, only to end up with a copy of this film. I already recounted the running gag the incident spawned in that review so I won't do so here, but it felt somehow fitting that I should one day choose to review this film to somehow complete the cycle.

Also because I will give any terrible killer crocodile movie at least one chance. The trouble with my willingness to give them all a chance, of course, is that very few of them deserve those chances.

Our film today starts off with an ominous warning of what we are in for when the production company logo appears.

Oh, God damn it.
Now, Nu Image is apparently still around in at least some capacity, but their big heyday--as least as far as I was ever aware of them--was when they cranked out a bunch of killer animal films in the early aughts. The most notorious of these was the Shark Attack series, but I first became aware of them when I picked up a Fangoria issue promoting today's film along with two other Nu Image films, Octopus and Spiders, that were set to all debut on a cable channel.

It may have been the Sci-Fi Channel, but my memory does not extend that far back and this film doesn't really deserve the effort to research it.

At any rate, I was charmed by the film's prop crocodile--to the point that I later gave the film's sequel, Crocodile 2: Death Swamp a chance that I quickly regretted, but that's a story for another time. However, for whatever reason I never actually saw this film until I caught part of it on TV many, many years later. I was not impressed, but was willing to give it another chance to see if maybe it was better than I gave it credit for.

I think you can guess that I found out that this film was just as big a piece of shit as I recalled.

The most astonishing thing about Crocodile is that this film was directed by Tobe Hooper, but nothing about it suggests it was directed by someone who had actually been in the film industry for almost 30 years by that point. At the very least, you'd think he could have set up a cast of characters that we might care about. Instead, however, we get a bunch of asshole college kids on a boating trip that I can't be arsed to keep straight.

The only ones that truly matter are Brady (Mark McLachlan), Claire (Caitlin Martin), Duncan (Chris Solari), and Sunny (Summer Knight). Brady and Claire are together, but she doesn't know that Brady had a fling with Sunny. Duncan does know this, but he is an irredeemable asshole and he tricked Sunny into coming along by telling her that Brady actually likes her. Duncan really just seems to think that the truth will out and he can then swoop in and bang Claire or Sunny.

Then again, he also seems to hit on Annabelle (Julie Mintz) despite her boyfriend Kit (D.W. Reiser) being also along for the ride. Of course, Kit will later do a body shot off of Sunny right in front of Annabelle with no objection from her, so I have no idea precisely what the relationship dynamics of this group are.

Also, Annabelle brought her little yap dog, Princess, along. The less said about that, the better.

At any rate, the group's first action upon arriving at Lake Sobek (yes, really, but the film actually addresses this later), is to annoy the local lawman, Sheriff Bowman (Harrison Young). This is the last time Bowman will be relevant to the film for a while, aside from cruising the lake in a helicopter that changes wildly from shot to shot.

Our plot doesn't actually begin until Kit, the local boy of the group, decides to tell them the legend of Flat Dog. Not too shockingly, the story is clearly a reference to Tobe Hooper's earlier film, Eaten Alive: a crazy man in the 1900s built a hotel--now reduced to a matte painting--where the main draw was a huge crocodile he imported from Africa, named Flat Dog. Said crazed hotel owner even believed the crocodile to be an incarnation of Sobek the Egyptian crocodile god. Naturally, something went wrong and the hotel was destroyed and Flat Dog escaped to haunt the lake ever since.

Now, even Kit doesn't truly believe the story, but we are about to see that it is very true. Two redneck stereotypes, complaining about endangered species ruining their livelihoods, happen upon a nest full of huge eggs and immediately begin smashing them in anger while mocking the bird they think laid them.

Several issues immediately present themselves. One, crocodiles do not just lay their eggs in an exposed nest where they would be instantly visible to any predator--they either bury them in a hole or cover them with vegetation. Two, these eggs are slightly smaller than footballs. Even putting aside the fact they look more like dinosaur eggs than crocodile eggs, how stupid would these two rednecks have to be to think that they were bird eggs?

Well, as you would expect Flat Dog devours one of the rednecks for his insolence, while the other makes it to his car before she does the same to him. She then pushes the empty car into the lake, because I guess you don't get to be a 30-foot croc that's been hidden in a populated lake for 96 years without knowing how to cover up a crime scene.

She may be missing her front teeth, but her wits have never been sharper!
We'll get lots of good looks at the animatronic crocodile in this film, and I will say that it is beautifully sculpted and looks amazingly convincing. I would even say it's better than Stan Winston's work in Lake Placid in just that regard. However, the film naturally calls upon this thing to move and it's not so good at that part. It is fine in some shots, but then in others it does things like have the jaw open from the top, which is the greatest way to make your prop crocodile look fake as hell.

It's also really clear that it's basically just a prop head being rolled around. There is a fairly decent "swimming" prop, as well, but the mobile head is the one that gets the biggest workout.

And then there's the CGI version of the crocodile, which is exactly as awful as you would expect and is also given way more screentime than is even remotely justifiable.

"That's coming along well. When do we see the finished effect? ... Hello?"
At any rate, this film oddly decided it needed a reason for its crocodile to start killing its main characters, so naturally they also find Flat Dog's nest. You'd think the fact that they are easy prey and they are in its territory would be reason enough. Even this film's sequel felt that was reason enough for the croc there to go after the cast.

Then again, I recently saw a clickbait headline where someone felt it necessary to explain why the Dilophosaurus in Jurassic Park eats Nedry. So apparently, "carnivores like meat and humans are made of meat" is too vague for some people.

Now, because the movie would be over, Flat Dog proceeds to behave completely unlike any crocodile mother ever and even unlike her own behavior a couple of scenes ago. Instead of immediately lunging out of the water to chase the idiots away or trying to eat them, she just watches from the water as they smash her remaining eggs, shove them down their pants, and then finally take one back to their camp.

Unbeknownst to Claire, one of the idiots even stuffs the egg into her backpack. Of course, he'll get his soon enough. That night, everyone goes to bed in a bad mood because a drunk Sunny reveals that she had a fling with Brady. The egg prankster is the last one aboard the boat after everyone else has already passed out, and Flat Dog chooses just then to smash the dock to eat him--which sets the boat adrift.

So the bad mood continues in the morning as the boat runs aground and now they have to get unstuck and figure out where they've drifted off to. Brady wanders off by himself, angry that Claire wants to leave now--but Sunny finds him and tries to seduce him again by taking her bra off and wading into the lake in front of him. She is definitely succeeding until Flat Dog looms out of the water and bellows at the two instead of just eating either of them.

Brady and Sunny try to run back to the boat as Flat Dog swims along beside them. Sadly, Flat Dog completely fails to eat Duncan on his floatie, but she does destroy the boat and eats the other third wheel when he tries to take an axe to a croc fight. She even taunts the others with his body, just to rub it in.

"Hey, did you folks lose this?"
Bowman, for his part, finds the sunken car and the nest of smashed eggs. He decides that this means the local alligator farm has lost a gator. However, the farm's owner, Shurkin (Terrence Evans), belongs to a line of men who have been trying to catch or kill Flat Dog for decades--and he has not only seen her himself, but believes she ate his father. So he is very eager to help the sheriff, after delivering some utter bullshit about how to tell crocodile and alligator eggs apart.

It does feature an adorable alligator puppet, though.

Meanwhile it turns out that Shurkin's underling, Lester (Adam Gierasch), has been secretly feeding Flat Dog chickens. He does so again and begs her to eat his boss, but the growling POV cam representing her in this pointless bit quickly decides to eat Lester first.

Night falls and our insipid heroes are not doing very well at all, having wandered aimlessly into the woods. And then Princess the dog helpfully leads them right into an ambush by walking right onto Flat Dog's head. Everyone scatters and blindly stumbles about like idiots, until Sunny manages to get her foot caught in a fallen branch. Claire and Flat Dog find Sunny about the same time and, to Claire's credit, she does at least seem to be trying to figure out how to help Sunny before she ends up just watching the other woman being swallowed whole.

And at the risk of attracting more traffic to my site from creepy vore fans, I have to point out that we watch as Sunny is swallowed headfirst by the crocodile. I would give the benefit of the doubt here, but I can't shake that icky feeling that this was shot the way it was for titillation more than horror. It doesn't help that we see her bare feet disappearing last--so add the creepy foot fetishists to the list of people who would probably enjoy this film.

Terrible Claw Reviews: Now with more kinkshaming!
The group manage to find an unattended store, where they call the sheriff's office and try to grab some supplies. Unfortunately, Flat Dog pulls a Kool-Aid Man and then proceeds to swallow Annabelle headfirst as well.

Yeah, someone on this production was fulfilling their fetish.

Brady finds a gun, but discovers that bullets simply bounce off of Flat Dog with sparks. (That is not how crocodile skin works!) Duncan gets his leg mauled, but sadly he is not killed. Poor Kit, however, gets blown up while trying to hotwire a truck when Flat Dog starts a gasoline fire. The upshot is that the explosion drives Flat Dog away.

Well, it's an upshot for the characters--it means we have to listen to them whining and bickering as Brady and Claire push Duncan through the woods in a wheelbarrow the next morning. However, Shurkin and Bowman are out looking for the teens. They already found the remains of one of their friends and know that Flat Dog is out to kill, not to eat.

Never mind that all we've seen her do is eat.

The remaining teens are found by Bowman and Shurkin, only for them to immediately run afoul of Flat Dog. Shurkin gets himself knocked overboard and eaten, Flat Dog then shows off by leaping over the boat, and then she eats Bowman as he tries to start the outboard motor back up again. This last part manages to feature the film's worst CGI, which is saying something, and then it causes CGI flames to engulf part of the boat.

Brady, Claire, and Duncan make it to shore and Brady decides they have no choice but to try and kill the bulletproof crocodile with pointed sticks or she will never stop following them. No, I'm not kidding. While digging in Claire's backpack for the Swiss Army knife to sharpen sticks with, he finds the egg--and this genius decides they need to use it as bait.

Shockingly, this plans goes awry almost immediately. Brady almost gets himself eaten, but is saved by the timely intervention of both Princess (!) and Duncan. Princess nimbly avoids the crocodile's jaws, while Duncan leaps on her head--and manages to get himself flipped into the air and swallowed whole. Alas, the film has spent a lot of time showing us that Duncan has doused himself in bug spray, so this causes Flat Dog to vomit him back up.

Sadly, he is somehow still alive after this, but you can understand Flat Dog not wanting that moron in her stomach.

In an amusing sign that this film took influence from Lake Placid, Claire offers the egg to Flat Dog--whereupon it hatches into a pretty decent puppet hatchling. The egg even looks leathery as it breaks out! The awful CGI baby then leaps into its awful CGI mother's jaws and they return to the lake in peace. The End.

Well, until the authorities find credible evidence of a dangerous, invasive animal living in the lake and eliminate them both. Still, Flat Dog was the only sympathetic character, so it's fitting she should get a happy ending.

I feel you, Flat Dog.
There are aspects to this film I admittedly enjoy, but this is a terrible film. In many ways, you can already see all the hallmarks of the Syfy Channel Original Movies that would follow in its footsteps.

For one thing, this is a bad film, but it's the kind of bad you get when everyone involved does the bare minimum. It's never bad in a way that feels like it comes from genuine incompetence. The directing is bland, the music makes zero impression, and the writing is bad. The actors range from competent to unremarkable, but since all the human characters are utterly insufferable, it doesn't really matter.

Well, okay, I do feel bad for poor Sunny. The film shows us very clearly that she is being jerked around by both Duncan and Brady--yet she's the one who has to die for the sin of being the Other Woman.

So, yes, just like the other Crocodile, Crocodile does suck. Unfortunately, it never reaches the glorious heights of incompetence that that film brought us. This film does lack any on-screen animal cruelty, however, so I suppose that gives it the slightest edge over it--but only in that regard.

It's a shame, too, because I really do dig that prop crocodile in spite of its faults. Unfortunately, it never did get a movie worthy of it because Crocodile 2: Death Swamp is also a piece of crap.

I guess I'll have to revisit that one again, too, one of these days. Why? Because I never do learn.

This has concluded Day 3 of HubrisWeen 2018! To see what the other Celluloid Zeroes chose for C, click the banner above!

No comments:

Post a Comment