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Crocodile
(2000)
 

Director: Tobe Hooper                
Cast:
Mark McLauchlin, Caitlin Martin, Chris Solari


There are many talented directors who, in their careers, have made one or a few cult movies, yet little to nobody knows their names. There are also directors with little to no talent who have made one or a few cult movies, yet everyone knows who they are, even when the directors' other movies are mostly or completely bombs. For example, take The agony this movie inflicts will make you get boozed up faster than these idiots John Landis. After making a few cult movies like Animal House and An American Werewolf In London, his filmography subsequently added movies like The Stupids, Beverly Hills Cop 3, and Blues Brothers 2000. And even some of the successes in his career, like Kentucky Fried Movie and Amazon Women On The Moon, could have been made by anyone, since such projects relied more on the script and the actors. In fact, all of the Landis movies I have watched could have been made by anyone; Landis doesn't seem to have a trademark style, and he seems to have relied most of his success using the input of others.

Tobe Hooper is another such director. After stunning the world with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, his subsequent efforts seem to suggest that Chainsaw's success was a freak, or that Hooper ran out of ideas after his debut. How many of Hooper's other movies do you like? How about Eaten Alive? Invaders From Mars? Spontaneous Combustion? The Mangler? Lifeforce? Well, I admit that was fun, though on a so-bad-it's-good level. There's also Poltergeist, but I think we can agree Steven Spielberg had at least substantial influence over Hooper during the shoot. And there is Crocodile, Hooper's latest effort, and it should come as no surprise that it's just as forgettable as almost all of his movies, with no sign that it was directed by the man who made The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Actually, if you consider the uniform bad quality of all those bad movies of his he subsequently made, maybe you can see signs that it was made by Hooper after all.

It's true that the premise of this movie is thin, where any director might have had trouble stretching the little material in the script into an entire movie. The premise: Several college students on their spring break go up to Lake Sobek, a giant lake located somewhere in the southwest. While cruising on the lake, a crocodile, Some of the idiots discuss how many times over their combined brain mass could fit in the egg whose eggs gets disturbed, sets her eyes on chomping those students and anyone else that gets in her way. And aside from the expected screaming, running, and chomping that follows, that's about it. Though a script of this nature is challenging to any director, it's not impossible to do. Just look at Ticks; the difference with that movie to this one was mostly in the location and the type of menace. Ticks worked, because it had, among other things, talented actors playing likable characters, production values that squeezed more of of a dollar than other movies, numerous and bloody attack sequences, and the fact it was made by people with a sense of humor, so that there was a sense of fun in every scene.

It's fortunate that a movie like Ticks exists, because it really helps to point out why a movie like Crocodile fails, even though it appears that Crocodile had a bigger budget and more resources. Actually, Crocodile does manage to excel over Ticks in the technical department in the beginning. There is a sunny and sharp look to everything that makes this part of the movie look like a major studio production. That's because the movie actually has crowds, buildings, and other objects in front of the camera. However, once the youths leave civilization a few minutes later, the movie almost immediately looks cheap, because there is nothing of interest to see. All we see for the most part subsequently is a drab landscape, which not even the sunny and sharp photography can make pleasing for the eye. Ticks may not have had professional photography, but the carefully chosen locations made the movie look colorful all the same.

Since there is nothing interesting in the background, it means more of our focus is on the cast and characters - much to our regret. if any of the actors playing these youths actually has any talent, they either couldn't or weren't allowed to show it in their parts. These are the most annoying and uncolorful youths since Hollywood High. The fact that I couldn't remember most of their names - if they were even mentioned at all - is the least You'd hide yourself, if you were stuck in this movie of the problems I had with them. They are a uniform pack of foul-mouthed, back-stabbing, beer-drinking idiots that typically spout off inanities like, "Are you bozos down for a kegger?!" In the second half of the movie, they become even more unlikable with their screaming and shrieking at each other, almost as annoying as the eardrum bursters in Carnival Of Blood. I think you might see where I'm going with this - namely, why should we feel anything except pure hatred for these arguments for birth control? Instead of wondering with fear if any of the characters would be attacked or would survive, I was internally pleading for the crocodile to silence them for good.

The crocodile is portrayed both with animatronics and computer graphics. The effect of the former is pretty pathetic; moving in the water, the crocodile looks extremely stiff, and it seems its being pulled by someone underwater a la The Crater Lake Monster. The scenes where it pops its open mouth above the water surface in the exact same way reminded me of the shark doing the same kind of thing in The Last Shark. When depicted by computer animation, it doesn't look too bad - when it's dark. Near the end of the movie, when we see the beast in full daylight, it's an embarrassment to see - it's impossible to be scared or jolted by something that looks so fake.

Actually, the real problem with the beast isn't just that the crocodile usually doesn't look "There's too much 'head' in this beer you have in the cooler!" very convincing, but that it has no personality. Yes, it's an animal, but he could be creepy, almost human in its thinking, or simply a vicious bastard that bites down hard and bats his victim around. When this crocodile gets hold of a victim, we simply see it move its full mouth up and down, with one or two cups of blood staining its lips (if crocodiles have lips.) The one big attack sequence this crocodile gets near the end of the movie is actually a pretty blatant rip-off of a very memorable moment from Anaconda's climax.

That makes six (so far) other movies I've brought up to compare with Crocodile, though I don't think a movie that's so tired and unoriginal deserves a review that doesn't compare it to other movies. There is no sign that Tobe Hooper is even trying to make this a movie, instead of a product that relies on sizzle instead of the actual steak to attract customers. The origin of the crocodile is very poorly done, leaving a lot of obvious questions conveniently unanswered. The movie has no feeling of fun or terror, just exuding (and generating) hostility. It's not just that there are no feelings of fun or terror, but that HooI'd reather have a rubber creature than bad CGIper seems reluctant to do so. A chainsaw is brought up at one point, but there is no indication that Hooper is even making a reference to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (that makes seven). And though early on Hooper mentions a derelict location that seems intended to make an in-joke sequence alluding to Eaten Alive (eight), the location is never mentioned again. Hooper's contempt for the audience is so big, he doesn't even try to get separate stock shots representing the sheriff's helicopter to match.

It always amazes me whenever I see a movie done with so little passion. Aside from making a buck, I can't understand why so many people would go to so much trouble to make a movie that even they themselves probably wouldn't want to see. We are expected to go for a movie with an unoriginal premise, executed with no passion, and constantly reminds us of not just better movies we've seen (which is bad enough), but reminds us of the many other bad rip-offs we've seen. What a crock.

Check for availability on Amazon (VHS)
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Find book "Eaten Alive at a Chainsaw Massacre: The Films of Tobe Hooper"

See also: The Crater Lake Monster, The Last Shark, Ticks

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