Crocodile (2000) Review

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8 teenagers take a spring break boat trip, where the local legend of “Flat Dog”, a giant crocodile who supposedly once lived in the areas’ lakes and swamps, may not be as mythical as people assume. Messing with the large eggs the group find, turns out to be a really bad idea…

Tobe Hooper is probably the biggest hit-and-miss directors in horror. For every The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, there’s a The Mangler… For each Lifeforce, there’s a Tool Box Murders waiting around the corner to keep his batting average down.

On the plus side, his inconsistency at least makes sitting down to one of his movies interesting; will he build an oppressive and effective atmosphere, or a cartoonish mess?

Despite looking like the modern movie (you know you’re getting older when a 14 year old movie is “modern”) it is, it’s clear that Crocodile is from an old school horror director. Although it mostly has the feel of a current ‘teens in trouble’ movie, there’s some little spark, some undefinable something, that gives the movie what can best be described as an 80’s undercurrent. And that, in this case, is a good thing.

It’s a low budget, 21st century creature feature, and it bears all the hallmarks of such. The crocodile itself is barely glimpsed for the first half of the movie, and when we do see it, it’s CGIed in long shots with a life sized model snout being used in close-shots, and our group of college students look remarkably like buff 30-somethings, none of whom can particularly act.

It’s clear that (although released direct-to-disc) the movie was filmed with selling to TV in mind… It even has regular fade-outs for commercials.

But, for all the similarities with SyFy/Asylum’s creature features, that certain something-something I can’t quite describe that gives it a more classic feel also makes it stand above its made-for-TV brethren.

It could be that the B-Story, featuring the town sheriff and a local alligator farmer tracking the giant croc, never really feels shoehorned. It could be that the effects are actually alright (not great, but not distractingly awful as is often the case in these things). It’s possible that it’s partly down to the “dog in danger” running joke being nicely underplayed, rather than spelled out. It might even be that, for all the wooden acting, the characters are actually well rounded enough to help you see past the performances. Whatever the cause, the result is that Crocodile is a thoroughly enjoyable Creature feature, in a genuine, non-ironic way.

The movie knows what it is, and is never po-faced; but at the same time it never winks at the camera, or overplays it’s flaws for laughs.

In the end, the underlying eighties-ness boils down to just that; it’s a genuinely fun (but not funny), well made monster movie, and it’s about time we had more of those!

It takes a lot to sever a spine…

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