Wednesday, 19 November 2008

The Cheap-Arse Film Review #7- "CROCODILE." (MONSTER FLICK DOUBLE BILL PT. 1)









PRICE: £1.00

This was originally going to be my first double feature review. I had this idea in the back of my head that at varying points in this project I'd do two movies in one entry, films that would be linked by a genre, or an actor, or a director, title,
production company, anything really, tenuous link central. I was going to try and invoke the spirit of those old fifties drive-in double bills with this one, reviewing two moster movies that share more than a couple of things in common, play them off one another, make mention of their differences and similarities, what worked and didn't in each, stuff like that. In my head, this sounded like lots of fun, and couple that with the fact that I was horricially ill over the weekend and really had nothing better to do but drink Dyralite, watch movies and write about them, I got stuck in.

It soon became clear that what seemed like a fun idea in my head was actually a total fucking nightmare in execution, to the point that I'm never going to attempt it again. Frankly, it's too much work. If you're reading this, I'm going to assume you've read a few of my
other posts already, but if you haven't, you'll soon learn what everyone else has, which is that I'm a verbose motherfucker and I don't know when to shut up. As a result, my reviews are looooooooooooooooooong. So imagine taking one, like the last one for instance, which even by my standards was huge (that's what she said...), and double it. It wasn't much fun to attempt to write (which was the first time I could say that about any of these, usually I'm sitting here having a ball) and I can't imagine it would have been much fun to read, either. So I put the ixnay on it.

The plan now is this- I still intend to review two movies this week, I'm just going to space them out over a couple of days. This review went up on Wednesday as usual, so you can expect the second review on Friday, Saturday morning at the absolute latest (I have a party to go to Saturday night). That way I can still address a few of the duel themes I wanted to, whilst also treating each as a self-contained piece. Like a good episode of "The X-Files."

So, "Crocodile." I've always been amazed that Tobe Hooper didn't become a bigger name director than he is. He made two great movies, "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" and "Poltergeist," the second of which I believe he was hand-picked to direct by Steven Spielberg himself. He showed flair and talent, and through both also showed he wasn't one-dimensional and understood how to make two very different kinds of scary movie. The future should have been bright, at the very least in the world of mainstream American horror cinema. But going over his career history as a director, you soon discover that the bulk of it is made up of TV movies, direct-to-video bombs and gigs on shows like "Dark Skies," "Perversions Of Science," "Nowhere Man," and "Masters Of Horror." I'm not calling him a failure, I would never do that. He seems to be that rare thing, a consistantly-employed director. And if he's happy with the path his career has take then God bless him. But I can't help but think that, in a genre where it seems like you don't have to do much or back up the things you promise in order to be held up as some great talent (hello Eli Roth), for a man who clearly showed he was good at this to be stuck directing episodes of "Night Visions," is disheartening at best.

The film kicks of with a thumping, upbeat pop-punk ditty, and suddenly I am transported back to the turn of the century, when I was 18 and life was strangely less and more complicated all at once. In a car driving down a long stretch of road, we meet our two main male protagonists, nice guy Brady (Mark McLachlin) and his fratboy prick friend Duncan (Chris Solari). Both seem really familiar to me, but I can't place them from anywhere. Solari apparently had a small part in "Great Balls Of Fire!" when he was a child, a movie I have seen, but there's no way I would have remembered that, and this was McLachlin's first screen role, and he's apparently only been in four
films since, in one being credited as "Dead Robber," which must have stretched his talents. Their final destination is some harbour so they can spend their Spring Break sailing, drinking and swapping various fluids, I'm presuming not with each other. Along the way they pass the time by discussing what they would have if they could only eat one food for the rest of their lives, with Duncan throwing his weight behind pizza, because as he puts it, "It's like sex... when it's good it's great, right? And when it's bad, it's still pretty damn good." I can't find fault in this logic if I'm truly honest, but will say that I've probably had more pizzas than I have sex in my life, so what do I know?

Another car full of college kids drives past and shoots their car with water pistols. It turns out this crew of shaved chimps is also with them, amongst them a pretty girl with multi-coloured hair in a tight T-Shirt. Her name is Sunny, she's played by Somme Knight, and she's a slut. Don't yell at me, I'm not being sexist, I just know how these movies work, and when a girl shows up dressed like that, surrounded by a bunch of baying males, she's either had or will have them all. And for fairness and balance, Brady, the hero of our piece, doesn't come across as some shining beacon of virtue either, as it quickly comes out that he's not pleased to see her because at
some point he and her would appear to have got to know each other carnally, which is going to be a problem because his girlfriend Claire (Caitlin Martin) is meeting them at the dock. At this point I was sitting here really, really hoping this wasn't going to turn into an episode of "Dawson's Creek," with a rampaging Crocodile in it. I mean, yes, that premise has some merits, but that's not what I came into this expecting. And happily, it's not what I got.

The gang reaches the boat they've hired, along with it's owners, Kit (Doug/DW Reiser), Annabelle (Julie Mintz), and they're horrible, yappy little ball of fluff that I ironically refer to as a dog named (GAH) Princess. I hated that dog on sight, but consoled myself with the thought that there as no way the little fucker was getting to
the other end of this thing alive. She may be the first to go. Brady meets up with Claire, there's some kissing, then off to town to buy beers, where they're hassled by the local police. Well I say "hassled," but in truth they do nothing to them that's in any way unreasonable, even though the low, slow guitar music and reactions from certain characters make it obvious the movie wants us to think this. They see a bunch of loud kids who could easily be underaged running around with beer, stop them to check their IDs, and tell them to be careful when they're out on the lake and make sure nobody operates the boat whilst drunk, otherwise something bad could happen. And all they get back is attitude. Which makes this as good a point as any to bring this up- with the exception of Brady and Claire, and Kit and Annabelle up to a point (they lose points just through association with the dog), every single one of these people is a cock. Borish, belligerant, sarcastic, hedonistic and in a couple of cases showing genuine evidence of mental instability, there's not a single person here you'd want to see survive.

And that's great. Because while I'll admit that you do need a few likeale human protagonists in there, for most of the movie, whether you want to or not, you're going to find yourself rooting for the monster. So any halfway decent creature flick should be kind enough to serve up a few arseholes for you to gleefully watch get chomped. And here you practically get a buffet full of them.

And speaking of chomping on arseholes, there's a very strange moment not long after this. The boat is now sailing, and we're in one of the cabins. There's a close-up of Claire's face, she's giggling and ever-so-slightly bent forward. We then move out a little bit to see the top half of her body, then Brady's head raises up into shot... from behind her.

Now, maybe it's just me, infact it very well could be, I'm not discounting that, but from what they're visually implying here, there's only a couple of things he could have been doing to her. And
they're either cool or gross, depending on your level of prudishness. Aaaaaanyway, through this scene, we learn a few things about the relationships of these characters, mostly that Claire hates Duncan with a firey passion because he got Brady caught up in some cheating scandle that got him kicked out of school, and thus he and Claire can no longer be together. I really don't care, to be honest.

Following some bodyshot-related party humour and some vomit jokes, we're then whisked to a campfire at night, which exists in order for Kit to tell he story of this movie's monster, the giant Egyptian Crocodile, or as it's called, the "Flat Dog," that was brought to America by Harlan Clements, who built and owned the old hotel that
could be seen from the camp. The Croc was said to be descended from the ones the Pharaohs rode into battle, and apparently Harlen worshipped it, created a shrine for it within the hotel and built a cult around it, believing that he could use it to harness the powers of the ancient Egyptian Crocodile Gods. He was about to be run out of town for his un-Christian ways, when the Flat Dog somehow laid eggs without obviously having anything to mate with. I don't understand why this stopped him from being run out of town, but never mind. It's then said that Harlen's eight-year-old son got mad at him for some unrevealed reason, smashed the eggs, and then all that was ever seen of him again was his hand. It's a fun tale, and you could easily buy it as a real urban legend. The most fun aspect of this scene though is the kids heckling and dicking around with Kit as he tells it though, throwing out such gems as, "Can we just fast-forward to the flying guts and assholes?" and the frankly rather random, "LICK MY HAIRY BALL SACK!" Also in later scenes more mention is made of the hotel, of a fire that happened there and evidence of some real freaky shit being found. I was rubbing my hands together, because I thought not only are they going to be chased around by a beast, but they're also going to end up in a haunted house with it. Sadly, this never happens, which confuses me. Why would you set things up like that and give the hotel an elaborate backstory if you're not going to do anything with it? It seems like alot of work for absolutely no return. I have found out this movie has a sequel out there, so who knows, maybe the house is featured there. Hopefully one day I'll get to find out.

Intercut with this scene is another with two fishermen. They're just dicks, kicking over a sign that tells them not to fish where they want to, complaining about "Goddamn animal rights activists," before finding a nest full of large eggs on the bank of the river and deciding, "HEY, DURR, LET'S SMASH 'EM!" seemingly for no other reason than for the louls. I was a bit embarrassed watching this scene, because these guys are just cartoon characters written by by a college student in a PETA T-Shirt, but at the same time I welcomed their arrival the same way a small child does Christmas, beause I knew they heralded, finally, the coming of the Flat Dog. AND HERE IT COMES, AAAAAAND...

... it's shitty CGI. God damn it, it's shitty CGI. I physically deflated (that may have been the Dyralite though), and almost turned the movie off right there, but instead I sighed, tutted at myself for expecting anything else, and sat back down to watch the rest.

Then something wonderful happened. The other fisherman runs away, and the Flat Dog gives chase. Only we see the chase from the Flat Dog's point of view, and I swear, it looks like they used the old Sam Raimi "Shakey-Cam" effect to pull it off. Then the guy get in the car, Flat Dog gets in with him, and... YES! YES! IT'S A RUBBER CREATURE! IT'S A REAL TANGIBLE THING AND IT'S BITING HIM AND HE'S SCREAMING AND KICKING IT AND IT'S BITING HIS LEG AND NOW HALF HIS BODY IS IN IT'S MOUTH AND HE'S STILL SCREAMING AND BLOOD IS SPRAYING ALL OVER THE SEATS AND THE WINDOWS AND THE DASHBOARD AND HE'S STILL SCREAMING AND THEN IT PUSHES THE CAR INTO THE WATER AND OH MY FUCKING GOD THIS IS AWESOME!!!!!!!

I quite liked it.

From that point forward they fall into the pattern of sometimes having the Flat Dog be represented by animatronics, and occasionally by CGI. Neither looks particularly realistic, but that's not the point, the point is, does the creature have character? And to that question, I answer a resounding yes. Even in computer-generated form. I've complained about the use of CGI in movies that couldn't afford it before, and I stand by those statements, but it seems here that everybody involved had the sense to realise their limitations and not go for an over-realistic look like so many small-budget genre
movies do as a way to overcompensate. Here, the Flat Dog look a little goofy, but you get the impression that was more by design by anything else. And they really do only use the effect for things they obviously didn't know how to do practically, so they weren't a slave to it. It's a good way to work.

Now the film sets out to establish a reason for why Flat Dog would want to kill the kids. Here's where it gets a little bit clunky. The day following the camp out, the kids are having fun in the river frolicking whilst Sunny shakes her boobs at them, when they find the remains of what was Flat Dog's nest, as well as the lone remaining egg. They are, as they are with practically everything, utter wankers about it, taking taking and tossing it around like a
football. Princess also eats the contents of one of the smashed ones as Mummy looks on (oh, you're going to get it, dog...). Upon returning to the boat, one of the nerdier and seemingly more unhinged of the group starts muttering some jealous ramblings about Claire, before putting the last remaining egg in her bag as a "joke." Okay, this is usually where I say, "two things," but in this case, THREE things- 1) Why does it seem like all Brady's friends hate Claire? What has she done to inspire this level of hostility from them? Other than not sleep with them all I mean, which seems like what you have to do to be a woman and for them to like you, 2) Where did this creepy loser having the hots for her come from? There's been absolutely nothing pointing to this in any way up until this moment, and 3) How is putting an egg in her bag even a joke? Okay, put an egg in her bag and then stamping on it, that's a joke. But just putting an egg in her bag isn't a joke. That's just... putting an egg in her bag.

In any event, this is briefly forgot about when we take a quick detour back to "Joey & Pacey Land" when Claire finally discovers her boyfriend has at some point been with Sunny, and to be honest with you, the dumb bastard has nobody to blame but himself. I'm not advocating anybody ever cheat on their respective others. I never have. But if you are going to, at least be able to think on your feet a little bit. Here's how it went down- Sunny's a drunk mess again, so Brady decides to help her back onto the boat. She starts to kiss him, and Claire tells her, in a firm but friendly
way, "back off, bitch." To which Sunny apologetically responds, "You're so nice, I never would have done it if I had known." Claire looks confused, asks Brady what she means, and the best he can come up with is to pause before saying, "She's been drinking." WAT?! There's no way any woman with half a brain is going to accept that! And he had an out! He could have told her she's obviously so drunk she forgot he had a girlfriend and was apologising for kissing him! But no, no, the best he could come up with was, "She's been drinking." What a moron. So then it all comes out, the shit hits the fan, Claire starts to cry, and Brady finds himself sleeping on the poop deck in his sleeping bag.

I can believe I just wrote a paragraph about te problem solving abilities of a fictional character.

After that little bout of melodrama I was really feeling the need to
see someone get eaten, and happily the movie obliged me- Creepy Dude Who Thinks Putting Eggs In Someone's Bag Is A Joke is left on shore so he can sober up. He wakes up, walks to the end on the peer to puke, and then BOOM! FLAT DOG OUTTA NOWHERE, SWALLOWING HIM WHOLE AND AND TAKING A MASSIVE CHUNK OUT OF THE WOOD! It also accidently cuts he rope holding the boat in place, causing it to float off. They all wake up later having floated miles down stream, with no real idea of where they are and the boat stuck on the bank. Like the ungreatful little shits that they are, most of the kids are more interested in making Bloody Marys and trying to convince their friend's heartbroken girlfriend to have sex with them to help get their vessel up and running again.

Brady's not much help either, as he just goes for a walk to be alone with his thoughts. He's joined by Sunny, who thinks the best thing to do to cheer him up would be to try and fuck him. Gotta love this girl. Her seduction technique is odd though, as it consists of her getting into the river fully clothed. Nothing sexier than soggy cotton. Have none of these people heard of skinny dipping? Thankfully Flat Dog shows up to stop Brady potentially making another big mistake. In many ways the monster is the most moral character in this movie. There's a critique of modern American youth for you. It's at this point some inconsistancies start to become apparent in Flat Dog. In some scenes he's fast enough to kil people in the blink of an eye, but in this scene he

The only disappointment is the dog survives.

While all this is going on, The Sherrif from the start of the movie (played by Harrison Young, who amazingly played "Old Ryan" in "Saving Private Ryan" two years earlier. Life of a jobbing actor, I guess) is having his own adventure. He discovers the chewed up remains of the two fishermen, as well as what's left of the nest, and pays a visit to Lester (Adam Gierasch) and Shurkin (Terrence Evans), two backwater hicks who run a very strange gift shop and also keep Alligators, suspecting that one of their pets had escaped
and done the damage. Shurkin soon puts him straight, telling him it was the Flat Dog and insistng on coming along to help The Sherrif take it down, as it killed his father and grandfather. It's a BLOODFEUD! there are no words to describe how superb that is. Lester stays behind, supposedly to keep an eye on things, but we later see him feeding the Flat Dog chickens. He seems to be caring for it, but the movie never really makes it clear if he's always been doing this, or if he just happened to find it and had some chickens on him. While feeding it, he asks it if it would eat The Sherrif and Shurkin for him. "Ah'm sicka Shurkin," he says, "ah'm sicka all his buggerin's..."

... Excuse me? Did... did I just hear what I thought I did? Where's the rewind button?

"Ah'm sicka Shurkin, ah'm sicka all his buggerin's..."

Yep, thought so. Wow. First implied analingus, now outright stated forced sodomy. This is the most anally-obsessed horror movie since "Deliverence." Who wrote this, John Stagliano? Anyway, Lester is spared any further, ahem, indignity when the Flat Dog decides to thank him for the meal by eating him.

And so we're back to the survivors, and the problem now is that because most of the total dickheads have already been done away with, seeing people get eaten might not be as fun as it had been previously. Thankfully, the movie seems to expect this and to have planned for it by having them argue and bicker amongst themselves to such an annoying degree that I'm eventually more than happy to see some of them go away. I'm not going to get overexcited here, instead I'm going to look at this scene objectively and point out what's good and not so about it. For a start, I find the fact that they've acting like this thing could pop out at them from anywhere to be ludicrous. It's huge, and they're walking through a not-particularly
dense forest. You should be able to see or hear it coming a mile away. On the plus side, there's one unique moment that made me go, "Huh." Once the creature appears again (when the group discover Princess STANDING ON IT'S HEAD, which was the exact moment I gave up on the dog getting it), everyone scatters, and Sunny, whose foot was already injured in the first attack, gets it stuck between to tree roots. She's screaming in pain and for someone to help her, and Claire finds her... but so does the Flat Dog. She watches it approach, and in most movies this is where Claire would show what a good person she is by saving the person who did wrong by her, maybe even by sacrificing her own life. But she doesn't. She just stands there, frozen by fear, and watches screaming as it eats her.

The remaining five eventually find refuge in a closed local convinience store, where they act like everything is now going to be fine, they hug, high five, Brady and Claire kiss. That last one is really weird to me, it's like the second Sunny died, whatever was wrong in their relationship suddenly went away, which doesn't seem like a sensible message to be sending out. "Hey kid! Boyfriend or girlfriend screwing around on you? Do away with the other person and everything will be fine!" They're looking around the store for food and weapons (we get obvious-but-fun wink to Hooper's past when they find a chainsaw, which sadly isn't used later), Duncan covers himself with bug spray (which actually does come into play later in
one of the most hilarious ways possible), and Annabelle sneaks off to the bathroom to have a bit of a cry, which felt to me like too heavy a moment for a film like this. I don't want to see tears unless it's people crying through pain. She also can't do crying acting worth a damn. She sits on the toilet with her dog, and all I could think was, "please let the Flat Dog burst through the toilet and eat her, please let the Flat Dog burst though the toilet and eat her." He doesn't, but he does the next best thing, he BURSTS THROUGH THE FUCKING BRICK WALL! THEN HE'S IN THE STORE AND HE EATS ANNABELLE AND BLOOD SQIRTS NEARLY HITTING THE DOG AND IT'S KNOCKING SHIT OVER AND PEOPLE ARE SHOOTING IT AND IT'S HAVING NO EFFECT AND IT MUNCHES ON DUNCAN'S FOOT AND KIT GETS IN A TRUCK OUTSIDE THAT WON'T START AND IT GOES OUT AFTER HIM AND IT KNOCKS GAS EVERYWHERE AND SOMEHOW THERE'S FIRE AND IT RUNS AWAY AND THE TRUCK BLOWS UP WITH KIT IN IT! A CROCODILE JUST BLEW UP A FUCKING TRUCK!!!!!!!

After this, we're treated to several lush shots of Shurkin and The Sherrif riding around in their boat, with inappropriately romantic music playing over the top of it, which given what we already know about Shurkin is enough to make me wonder what's been going on off-screen between the two of them. They see the smoke coming from the exploded store and decide to invetigate closer. "It just keeps getting better," The Sherrif say. I didn't know about that one at the time. I thought it might have peaked. Brady, Claire and Duncan are at this point a real sight to behold, clothes ripped to shreads
, arguing over who pushes Duncan in the wheelbarrow they have him in as he complains and sprays more bug spray over himself. If I were either of them, I'd have left him behind miles back, on the off-chance that Flat Dog finds him and get distracted for a few moments as it eats him.

They spy The Sherrif and Shurkin, and again act like they're saved when they get on their boat, which makes perhaps the least sense of anything so far, because you know what? The last place I would feel safe if I was being hunted by a giant Crocodile would be on a boat surrounded by water. And indeed, the creature appears, rams the boat, knocks Shurkin into the water and does the same thing to him as it did the previous two generation. At least he's with Lester
now. The Sherrif bites it next, along with half the engine, thus causing the boat to burst into flames and the other three to have to abandon ship and, once the egg is finally discovered, decide to use it as bait and make one last stand against Flat Dog, armed with a pen knife and some sticks. Duncan, who for most of the movie has pretty much been an insufferable twat, is actually hilarious in this scene, his declaration that he's had enough and is willing to let the creature eat him, and his utter disbelief at both his friend's desire to fight and the tools with which he wants to do it with both being brilliant.

So here they are, three beaten up teens hiding behind bushes armed with sticks ready to do battle with a giant Egypyian Crocodile. There's no way this fight scene can live up to what's come before, and in truth it doesn't. But there are two moments here that elevate it to greatness, and both in some way involve Duncan, who it seems like the writers realised they'd given the short end of the stick to most of the movie and tried to make up for this fact in the last ten minutes. Firstly, in order to stop Brady being eaten, he jumps on top of Flat Dog's mouth and attemps to hold it's jaws shut. Flat Dog's response? IT TOSSES HIM INTO THE AIR AND SWALLOWS HIM WHOLE! My God they did it, they actually managed to save the coolest death in the movie until the very end. Oh wait, did I say death? My mistake. Because you see, Duncan doesn't die here. How does he survive being swallowed whole, you ask? Well shortly after the fact, Flat Dog starts gagging and making hurling noises and... can you guess where I'm going with this yet? HE PUKES HIM UP! HE PUKES HIM UP BECAUSE HE'S SO COVERED IN BUG SPRAY THAT HE'S INDIGESTIBLE! I literally threw my arms in the air and shouted, "YEAH!!!"

And then the egg hatches, and Flat Dog and baby go away. I'm not being needlessly abrupt when I put it like that either. That's really what happens. It just swims away with it's kin, leaving the three friends standing on the river bank watching it go. And then the movie ends. No seeing how this event has effected the three and
made them closer and stronger friends, no scenes with them in hospital, nothing. It's just over. Roll credits. The End. And I liked that, it was a movie being satisfied that it had done what it set out to do, leaving when it had nothing more to add. More movies should have the conviction to do that.

I like this movie. I really do. It's not high art, but it was never meant to be. It's not that scary, but with these kinds of movies, that's not really the point. The point is to make sure the viewer is riotously entertained, which I was. There are flaws. While it looks fine for what it is, on account that it's directed by someone who
actually knows what he's doing, it feels like it's getting cheaper and cheaper the longer it goes on, like it was filmed in sequence and you could see them running out of money. There's also one continuity error right at the end- Brady tells Claire he saw the creepy guy mucking around with her bag, and when she asks why he didn't tell her about it, he says she wasn't talking to him at the time. Um, no, the scene where they fell out came after that one. I guess that's what happens when you have three people writing the screenplay. But I'll forgive that, because there were moments in this film that had me smiling, laughing, and yes, even cheering. It's like a frat party, it's childish, populated by dumb people, saying silly things, and you feel a bit ashamed of yourself for having a good time, but you're having one anyway. Just don't forget to bring beer.



One down, one to go.

Until, well, Saturday morning at the latest, I'm the Cheap-Arse Film Critic, and you sure do got a purdy mouth.


jeffrey said...

You ARE a verbose motherfucker. That's why I read (and enjoy) your reviews. It keeps in with the theme of the blog... "Cheap-Arse Film Reviews" right? More words, thoughts, opinions, views, perspectives, for your money (in this case FREE! LOL.). You SHOULD do more "double bill reviews". The first one is always difficult but you'll write your way around it (you are a verbose motherfucker). Great job. Keep it up! I've read every review so far and have seen most of the movies. I'll be back often...

~Jeffrey aka japostol (you can find me in the CELTX forums)

The Cheap-Arse Film Critic said...

Thank you for the comments, much appreciated.

Redunbeck said...

Crocodile movies are always awesome (well, except that one from The Asylum, but everything they do sucks). This one sounds like no exception. Really good review, here.

Now please, please tell me the next croc movie is Primeval. That's the king of ridiculous croc movies.

The Cheap-Arse Film Critic said...

Unfortunately the next movie doesn't have a Crocodile in it. I well say this, though- it has (or in my case HAD) one of the greatest titles for any movie I've ever heard.