Compared to all the other piss-poor croc & gator movies, this one's just as piss-poor, not even the equal of such awful takes as Alligator II: The Mutation (1991). Equally bad takes on the theme have at least starred such interesting actors as Oliver Platt or Robert Forester so I enjoyed them despite that they were awful. Unfortunately Tobe did not have access to interesting actors or interesting anything.
An early movie of Tobe's, Eaten Alive (1976), shares the crocodiles-are-scary assumption, which made me wonder if Tobe is personally crocophobic & doesn't realize they're not inherently spooky to everyone.
I've sat on a crocodile's back, fed hunks of meat to alligators, & had me a pet caiman that made it to four feet long before I had to give it to someone with room for big reptiles, & I doubt I'm unique in finding crocs & gators rather cute. It would require a little extra something to render them scary or dramatic.
I hadn't recalled that the credits take ten minutes to be finished during which we just have to watch some standard teen-movie stuff boring beyond belief. This must've been perfect during first-run, because whoever was at the back of the popcorn line would get to their seat eight minutes into the film, see the last opening credits are still going, & believe he didn't miss anything. Well, he didn't.
One reason I began re-viewing even the least of Tobe's features on DVD was for "extras" that come with some of them. "The Making of Crocodile" is a pretty crappy extra, but it does at least reveal that the idea for this dud was never Tobe's. The producer decided he wanted a 1950s-style creature feature because he knew there was a distribution contract available for such a thing, & he decided it should even be about teenagers, yeah, that'd be original, teenagers in a 50s style creature feature, who'd've thunk of that.
No one admits it, but a dreadful South African film was having its rights offered the year before with the same teenagers-meet-giant-croc theme (the abominable Krokodylus aka Blood Surf at least had campy pirates), & it would be my guess that some sleezy producer realized he could remake that film with no budget & not have to pay for the rights of the one that was already made.
In any case, by the time Tobe was brought on board, it was already pre-deicided that a "50s creature feature" meant "crocodile movie" even though this kind of crap has more in common with the much later Jaws than with 'fifties swamp horrors. If they'd really done a '50s style creature feature it would have had to've echoed some of the humanity of Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954) or the harrowing (for the creature) sequel The Creature Walks Among Us (1956).
So as with Salem's Lot which likewise was not Tobe Hooper's project until late in the game, Tobe's presence was an afterthought, so the worst films he ever made were ultimately not really his films. Which is not to say he shouldn't have at least tried to make something half worthwhile; that he takes work he doesn't care enough about to do well is certainly to his personal discredit.
Other croc & gator movies seem to have at least one performance each that makes them tolerable pieces of shit. Robert Forster is a great actor, who turned in a great performance tracking a gator-in-the-sewer in Alligator (1980).
Forster took the role at a time when his hair-plugs hadn't yet healed. It was a totally egoless & amazing character he created in the midst of an admittedly foolish film. Oliver Platt & Betty White in Lake Placid (1999) are wonderful presences in yet another croc film. The coolest scene was when the croc took down a helecopter -- that was good mindless fun to see.
Hooper's Crocodile resembled the equally horrid Anaconda (1997), the image of a small house-boat drifting along the rivers & swamps was the same, the primitive CGI effects were as cartoony, the story as thin.
The doomed teenagers are such a bunch of screaming boring assinine cretins it is almost a shame that any of them survived. The only time it seemed like Tobe Hooper might've had anything to do with this garbage was when the hillbillies arrive, one of them summarily eaten by the croc while asking it for favors, the other trying to avenge his daddy & granddaddy eaten by the croc in previous generations. They seemed like Tobe Hooper's sorts of characters, & while they weren't good actors of any consequence, they had a camp value, whereas none of the teen stars could rise even so far as the level of campiness.
Something in the tale I'd totally forgotten was the bit about the cursed tourist hotel. They showed it a couple times from a distance (totally fake looking haunted hotel image).
But even while the teens were wandering around the edge of the lake getting picked off, they never reached the hotel, they only reached the hillbilly country store. Why the hell was the hotel even mentioned if they weren't going to have a climax therein?
One gets the impression they actually might have had an interesting climax in mind, but didn't have the money to build a decaying fancy-hotel set, so went instead for the corner-grocery-in-the-swamp, as if there ever was such a thing, because for that they only needed enough money to bust up a shed.
There might be a really good croc or gator horror movie to be made someday, but I doubt it. It would require a couple things this genre of horror film never gets right. Mainly, the monster gators or crocs should look real, because everyone has seen them at the very least in the zoo, & some of us have even had them as pets, so if a croc or gator looks looks totally hoky, it's just too easy to tell. These cartoon CGI fx mixed with stiff & lifeless animatronix (if not mere hand puppets) just don't do the trick.
The Crocodile Dundee films, or nature shows like those of the Crocodile Hunter, make "the pretty darlings" interesting to look at as big reptiles, & this cannot be matched by unconvincing computerized cartoons & puppets. A bad film could still be captivating if the gators & crocs were realistic.
A second requirement to make it "horror" would be some added element of science fiction. Since it actually is possible for a saltwater crocodile to swallow a whole human, that much is not so much a monster premise as a man-against-nature premise, & a horror film needs an extra plot element or gimmick.
So first, provide a window into the lives of these prehistoric beasties rendering them no less visually convincing than they are on a Nature Channel program, & second, throw in something unlikely & make it convincing. Good character actors instead of screeming teenagers would also help, but a teen-flick can work too if surrounded by more conviction than this thing drums up.
Hooper's Crocodile tried to infuse the tale with fantasy, in the premise that this croc wanted revenge, plus the idea of the cursed hotel, though neither element was seriously developed. For some reason the producers seemed really to believe the croc could look two-dimensional or like a puppet-head, & that's enough.
The one thing Crocodile does that plays a credible but amazing angle is placing the baby croc in the mother's mouth, & she walks off satisfied; in fact these animals do protect their young in this manner, & babies do take refuge safely in their mothers' mouths, & this was a good ending for an otherwise extremely bad movie.
There should've been more that was "strange but true," & more especially, there should've been more that was convincing fantasy, & the croc itself should've looked far less hokey. Even for the cartoon-croc approach it left a lot to be desired -- we were given reasons to believe (in the dialogue, & in an on-screen poster for an alligator act) that it was possible to ride this giant croc, & before the chief hillbilly got eaten, he should've been ridin' that sucker down the river full tilt like Muad Dibb on a giant sandworm in Dune. If the promise of an alligator ride had been fulfilled it would have had at least one good laugh, but this film had next to nothing.
For more monster-croc action, see:
Lake Placid (1999)
copyright © by Paghat the Ratgirl