Tag Crocodiles/Alligators

Alligator (1980)

Alligator (1980)

It lives 50 feet beneath the city. It’s 36 feet long. It weighs 2,000 pounds…And it’s about to break out!

Flushed down a Chicago toilet, a baby alligator survives in the sewers by eating discarded laboratory dogs injected with growth hormones. Over the next twelve years, the small reptile grows to gigantic proportions and needs more than just dead dogs to satisfy its hunger. Soon enough, human body parts are beginning to wash up in the sewers and the police think that a serial killer may be on the loose. However, it isn’t long before the alligator escapes the city sewers and goes on a rampage.

 

One of the best of the Jaws imitators to come out in the years following Spielberg’s classic, Alligator takes one of America’s classic urban legends – that of pet alligators being flushed down into the sewers and managing to survive there – and turns it into an effective horror flick. It’s a B-movie in every sense of the definition with a little bit of black humour flowing underneath all of the cheap thrills but it stands out pretty easily from its ‘nature runs amok’ creature feature brethren. In fact writer John Sayles was also responsible for Piranha and the similarities between the approaches of both films are evident. Piranha fares a little better in the light-hearted entertainment stakes but Alligator is definitely the scarier of the two.

Alligator is well-paced and, like Jaws, takes time to build up the suspense and tension as we get fleeting glimpses of the creature roaming the sewers.  It’s these scenes inside the sewers where Alligator really shines and has been etched on my mind for years. I remember catching a glimpse of the sequence in which the pet shop owner pushes his trolley through the huge storm drain when I was a child and it stayed with me all of these years until I finally watched the film in full. They’re dark, eerie, wet and labyrinthine – hardly the place you’d want to get lost in with a giant alligator prowling around. The constant welling of the water and the lack of light down there really gives the sewers a classic horror atmosphere which is played up well in the early going.

There are a number of decent set pieces scattered throughout the film and Alligator does try and mix things up so that it’s just not all the same thing over and over again. One particularly memorable scene involves a group of kids playing ‘walk the plank’ in a backyard swimming pool where the alligator has unfortunately found its new home (well unfortunate for the kid who actually walks the plank). In the wrong hands, a lot of these scenes would have come off as cheesier than they are but director Lewis Teague knows when to keep things serious and when to toss in some oddball humour. It’s pretty hard not to unintentionally laugh at some of the things on show, be it for the right reasons or the wrong reasons – the alligator bursting through the concrete sidewalk being a classic bad special effect.

Alligator does fall into some blatant Jaws plagiarising particularly the POV shots from the creature with the accompanying “duh-duh, duh-duh” soundtrack as it homes in on its victims. Some of the model work is a little blatant too – the scenes at the wedding where the alligator has to become more mobile than it has been for the entire film clearly consist of the model being wheeled around on a trolley. There is a bit of miniature work too involving a real alligator crawling around on some tiny sets but it’s forgivable. But the majority of the special effects are decent enough involving a model gator and it’s big enough for the characters to interact with as they are dragged kicking and screaming to their deaths or crushed between its huge teeth. Alligator is gory as a result, with lots of limbs flying around, blood flowing and a decent body count to boot.

There’s also a slackness in the script which kicks in around the half-way point once the alligator leaves the confines of the sewers and starts terrorising the city. There are too many one-note characters floating around to fulfil a number of clichéd requisites and a number of sequences feel forced because “they’re the genre norm” including the obligatory love interest developing between the main characters, the attack on a populated event (in this case a party) and token slime-ball characters getting their comeuppance.

Robert Forster is decent in the lead role and you can see why he’s still getting plenty of work in the 2000s and 2010s. It’s virtually the Chief Brody role all over again – the grizzled cop desperately trying to protect the people he’s paid to serve. Robin Riker co-stars as the female scientist/love interest and is clearly in the Matt Hooper know-it-all school of characters. This leaves Henry Silva to come along as the Quint character and think he has what it takes to kill the alligator. The acting is of a decent standard given the material and Forster does shine with his performance, though it’s Silva who steals the show with his short role as he convinces a trio of local youths to act as his ‘native’ auxiliaries and help him flush out the gator.

 

As far as killer reptiles go, Alligator ranks as one of the best. It’s not perfect and could have been a lot tighter as far as the film pans out but it delivers a huge amount of entertainment for genre fans without crossing over into parody. Killer crocodiles/alligators have never been more impressive than in this one despite special effects coming on in leaps and bounds over the years.

 

 ★★★★★★★★☆☆ 

 

 

Robocroc (2013)

Robocroc (2013)

The world’s most lethal weapon

When a top secret unmanned spacecraft disintegrates on re-entry, it crash-lands in the crocodile habitat of Adventure Land, a large tourist attraction with a waterpark, amusements and world-famous crocodile exhibit. The crash releases a load of nanotech-based combat drones which find a host in the rather large shape of a twenty-foot Australian saltwater crocodile called Stella. With a new found aggression and determination to kill everything in sight, Stella breaks out of her enclosure and begins hunting down anyone roaming loose in Adventure Land.

 

A film like Robocroc needs no grandiose introduction from me. If you’re a long-time reader on the site, you’ll immediately recognise it as another ridiculous creature feature movie made for Sy Fy. I just shake my head whenever I read the synopsis for any new Sy Fy flick – there’s got to be a saturation point where people will turn off and say “hang on, even this is too far-fetched” although if they haven’t by now, they most likely never will.

If you’ve seen a) any killer crocodile film over the last twenty years or b) any Sy Fy film over the last fifteen years, then you’ve already seen Robocroc. It’s just a sad attempt to put a new twist on the same formula. The Eastern European shoot, featuring a whole host of Bulgarian (I’m assuming since that’s the usual haunt for Sy Fy) bit-part actors with the token sprinkling of American and British ‘faces’ to anchor the film, just smacks of every single Sy Fy film ever made. You wouldn’t bat an eyelid if the crocodiles or snakes from Lake Place Vs Anaconda slithered onto the screen. The extras all look the same. The locations all look the same. The style looks the same.

Even though some of the film was shot in Bulgaria, it’s clear the majority was shot in a backlot in the States somewhere as a lot of the ‘action’ takes place inside a black tent. It’s the generic military HQ set-up, where the scientists and commanders stand around talking about the monster with some laptops and fancy-looking flashing lights distracting the extras in the background. Lots of exposition and talking about the crocodile takes place and for every second the film spends in here, it means less screen time for the crocodile and those costly special effects. Having said that, the CGI is awful, particularly when the crocodile loses its regular skin and becomes all-robot. Even more ridiculous is the POV shots we get from the robot’s eyes, complete with Terminator-style HUD which flashes red stating ‘prey detected’ – as if the crocodile can actually read the words.

The sad thing about Robocroc, and something problematic with a lot of these Sy Fy films over the past three years, is that they’re just spinning their wheels. They seem to be stuck in a rut, re-treading old ground over and over again because the writing teams can’t seem to find a way to make them original and fresh. Come on! You’ve got a robotic crocodile and you just throw it inside an empty waterpark and feed it a bunch of soldiers and teenagers? It’s dull, uneventful and sorely lacking any decent excitement, even when the crocodile is on the screen. Though the crocodile does things like take out helicopters, it’s not exactly pulse-racing material and you’ll never really feel that the main characters are in any danger whatsoever. There is a little CGI gore splattered around but the film backs out of showing too much carnage which is disappointing.

Regular Sy Fy mainstay Corin Nemec shows up as the hero and sleepwalks his way through proceedings. He’s already faced troglodytes, the Mosquito Man and sand sharks to name a few in these type of films so adding a T1000-like crocodile to his list isn’t going to be much of a stretch. Keith Duffy, formerly of Irish boyband Boyzone, makes an appearance as the hunter character who turns up, does a feeble Quint-like impression, and then is promptly taken out of proceedings. Thanks for coming. Dee Wallace, a big genre star back in the 80s with the likes of Cujo and The Howling, must be wondering just what her agent is getting her into these days. She looks incredibly bored with everything going on, though she’s not the only one. Even at a lean seventy-seven minutes long, Robocroc is a tough slog.

 

Robocroc is a drab, non-event of a silly premise. Why bother wasting time turning the crocodile into a killer robot if you’re just going to let it do the same things that a normal crocodile horror flick would do? A waste of a ludicrous idea but also a terrible film.

 

 ★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Crocodile 2: Death Roll (2001)

Crocodile 2: Death Roll (2001)

From the creators of Crocodile and Spiders

A gang of bank robbers on the run with some stolen loot hijack a busy passenger plane during a storm. But the plane crash lands in a Mexican swamp where the survivors are picked off by a giant crocodile.

 

Nu Image roll another dismal sequel off their ‘monster on the loose’ production line with Crocodile 2: Death Roll, an unrelated follow-up to Tobe Hooper’s forgettable Crocodile. After all, nothing sells tickets like another generic ‘when animals attack’ horror flick. Well, in the case of Crocodile 2: Death Roll, it’s not tickets but the bottom shelf in the video store or bargain bucket at your local supermarket that this will be selling from.

Instead of spending too much money by bringing back Tobe Hooper (though after the original, it’s no surprise they didn’t even consider him), Nu Image handed over the director’s chair to Gary Jones, fresh from making Spiders, another of Nu Image’s ‘when animals attack’ films. Spiders was an enjoyable little creature feature flick which was better than it deserved to be (and to which Nu Image also produced a sequel) but there is none of that sense of fun prevailing in Crocodile 2: Death Roll. It’s a dull, lifeless creature feature with limited entertainment value.

Crocodile 2: Death Roll hardly showers itself in glory from the start and makes its task in hand even more difficult. It seems content in playing to format, trotting out a load of generic action clichés as the hijackers take over the plane and it crash lands in the swamp. It wouldn’t be so bad if this section was over and done with quickly but it takes almost a third of the film to finally get to the crocodile. Here, the usual monster movie tropes come into play and the script sits back, clearly expecting the audience to do the rest of the hard work. It’s embarrassingly predictable and there’s never any real sense of horror at the situation the characters find themselves trapped in. Maybe that’s down to the fact that there’s hardly a likeable character amongst the whole cast. Veteran Martin Kove pops up here somewhere as a tracker and his performance is arguably the best part of the film. I always liked him as the evil sensei Kreese in the Karate Kid films and Kove brings a little of that intensity and menace to the role here. He’s along for an easy pay cheque though and it’s obvious to see. Kove’s role is way too small for him to save the film in any way but at least it alleviates some of the dullness for a bit.

The rest of the cast is shocking though. The criminal gang are particularly over-played and will instantly get on your nerves, particularly Darryl Theirse. The script has them swearing every couple of words which is not only tiresome but it highlights how limited the writing vocabulary actually was and how short on creativity the writers were. Did they really need to swear every few words to get across how villainous and evil they were? It’s cheap writing. Too much emphasis is placed upon these criminals and not enough on the other caricature survivors – hell I’d have taken the teenage characters from the first one over these any day of the week. Besides which, it always bugs me when horror films like this make a bunch of criminals their main characters and then subject them to a terrifying ordeal. I’m not sure where the empathy is supposed to come from the audience – an eye for eye is what I say – so the quicker these law-breakers receive a just punishment at the teeth of the crocodile, the better.

The animatronic crocodile looks mean enough when it’s called upon for a few shots. It’s not used very often and the remainder of the croc’s screen time consists of some ropey CGI. Whilst this wouldn’t be much of a problem if the film was shot mainly during the day like the original, the film is shot mainly at night where you can’t see much of what is going on anyway. It also rains a lot to further add a natural screen to hide the croc’s shortcomings. Not only does this hide the crocodile’s CGI deficiencies but it deprives the audience of some much-needed satisfaction with rather disappointing kill scenes. Let’s face it – this is the only reason anyone wants to see this type of film and hiding all of the big money shots in as much darkness as possible really smacks of not understanding your audience.

 

Barely memorable and with little to keep horror fans glued to the TV, Crocodile 2: Death Roll is a perfect example of the lowest that this sub-genre can reach when no one really seems to bother. Hooper’s film was a disappointment – this one is somehow worse. Funnily enough though, it’s still head-and-shoulders above the never-ending slew of Lake Placid sequels that would follow on Sy Fy!

 

 ★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Lake Placid Vs Anaconda (2015)

Lake Placid Vs Anaconda (2015)

Crocs on the dock. Snakes on the lake.

Wexel Pharmaceuticals enlists the help of local poacher Jim Bickerman in obtaining a giant crocodile from the famous Lake Placid nature reserve. During a procedure to extract blood, the crocodile awakens in the lab and causes havoc, unleashing a special variety of giant anaconda snake. With both the crocodile and snake on the loose in the wild, it poses further problems for the previously-besieged community.

 

The fifth film in the Anaconda series, and the first to be made since 2008, as well as the fifth film in the Lake Placid series, Lake Placid Vs Anaconda is just about the sort of film you’d expect to get when you combine two fading franchises whose attraction faded long ago. Did anyone really care about either series after the originals? I’m amazed that either series lasted as long as it did, though in reality they’ve been on life-support on the Sy Fy Channel for so long that it’s hard to remember they were originally both big hits in the late 90s.

Lake Placid Vs Anaconda is exactly the same sort of nonsense that both respective franchises have been churning out for a few years – only now that they’ve merged into one crossover universe, I’d hope that we are saved from individual sequels from now on. It’s virtually a Lake Placid film with a giant snake added into the mix as the narrative runs almost like the previous few films in that specific franchise. The plot is flimsy at best and I’m not even sure I got why the pharmaceutical company was desperate to obtain a giant crocodile when their snakes were gigantic. I’m not daft and realise it was just an excuse to allow the snake to get loose but I’d rather see writers attempt to give me a convincing reason for all of the carnage.

This isn’t well-written, if written at all – it almost runs like someone just slapped together a load of deleted scenes from the aforementioned franchises and I struggled to really care about anything on show. Predictable death scenes are set-up a mile away. The creatures do damage that they shouldn’t physically be able to do. Apart from a few main characters, the rest are just non-characters who show up only to die in the same scene. Even the main characters have very little to do and rely almost solely on your knowledge of their characters from the previous Lake Placid films. Again, the film is so heavily one-sided with the Lake Placid stuff that you forget there is supposed to be a giant anaconda in there somewhere. Sy Fy has been churning out almost the same film for the last ten years or so across various ‘monster of the week’ guises and it’s all so, so, so, stale now.

Featuring an all-star line-up of Sy Fy regulars including Corin Nemec, Yancy Butler and Robert Englund, Lake Placid Vs Anaconda delivers the expected star power and a sense that at least some effort went into the film. In a rare bit of continuity with Lake Placid: The Final Chapter, both Butler and Englund reprise their roles. Englund’s character is a particular delight to welcome back, with a few less body parts after his last ordeal with the crocodiles, and he hams up proceedings with a typically enjoyable performance. The three of them have clearly been cast to add some names to the front cover, Englund especially trading on his past glories as Freddy. The other members of the cast, particularly the sorority girls, are awful actresses designed to provide mild titillation to the male audience before being eaten (and mild titillation just means they parade around in bikinis).

The film isn’t even that gory. Yes, there is some blood on show but the vast majority is the cheap CGI variety. It’s pretty rare to get anything as nasty as a leftover limb as the crocs and the snake swallow everything they see up. The CGI for both the snake and crocodiles is a marked step down in quality from their previous outings, which isn’t saying much as they were awful then and are even worse now. The crocs fair a little better, presumably because it’s easier to give the skin and scales some form and shape, rather than the long, slender and smooth snake skin that is on show. The creatures are well-fed, though as previously stated, the death scenes are set-up from a mile away and far too predictable. The worst problem is that they’re dull – you’ll not find any excitement or cheap thrills from the attack scenes.

 

Just because two franchises are owned by the same company doesn’t mean to say that a crossover film should happen. To quote Jeff Goldblum’s Ian Malcolm character from Jurassic Park, the studio was “so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.” Lake Placid Vs Anaconda is a painful attempt to milk the last few drops of money out of the respective franchises before both animals are finally sent to that big pet shop in the sky. One can only hope.

 

 ★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Crocodile (1980)

Crocodile (1980)

From The Slimy Depths Of The Ocean… Nature Explodes With Savage Fury!

Dr Akom is a scientist whose family is all attacked and killed by a giant crocodile that is terrorising a Thai village. After a university professor explains to him that the crocodile is a result of atomic testing, Akom enlists the help of local fisherman Tanaka to help him track and kill the beast. All the while, the local authorities are trying to do their bit to stop the crocodile which is continuing to destroy villages.

 

A Thai horror film? Now there’s a first for me. And it’ll be a last if Crocodile is anything to go by. I should point out early on that this is an American release of a film called Chorakhe and has been butchered to smithereens by the distributors, edited into oblivion and given a terrible dubbing job to boot. However, this mess leaves little desire for me to actually track down the original release and see if it is any better. Flipping between wanting to copy Jaws and the apparent desire of director Sompote Sands to make a Godzilla-like monster flick, Crocodile will try the patience of even the most ardent creature feature fan.

Crocodile makes some of the shameless Italian exploitation films of the 80s look good. I don’t like using the term incompetent as anyone who makes a film has at least had the opportunity to do so as opposed to an armchair critic like myself. But there is a basic level of incompetence to the whole thing – an incompetence that can be partly blamed on the bargain bin budget. For a start, the film looks like it’s been shot on second-hand film that someone else has already used a few hundred times. It’s washed out, it’s fuzzy, and it’s not focused. Coupled with the really bad dubbing job that it has been lumbered with, there’s not much for the eyes or ears to feast upon. It doesn’t matter how good a film may be, if it physically looks like it’s been dragged from the drain, then it has lost the battle before it begins.

But that would be too easy to dismiss Crocodile for those reasons. The actual content of the film is just as mind-numbingly appalling. Though it runs for ninety minutes, sitting through five is a struggle and a half. Starting with a Godzilla-like story about the crocodile rampaging through fishing villages, Crocodile limps from scene to scene with as much energy as a drained battery. There’s a complete lack of storyline – don’t let the synopsis fool you as I did my best to reword the blurb on the back of the box. I’m not even sure whether everything that it says in the synopsis actually happens because there’s little dialogue and I had no idea who everyone was supposed to be and what was supposed to be happening. Unsurprisingly, there is no credited writer. Either the person wanted to remain anonymous or there simply wasn’t one – both sound plausible.

I wasn’t expecting great things from the actual crocodile so I’m glad that I wasn’t surprised. Frequent use of miniature sets is obvious when you’ve got a real crocodile scurrying around on them or swimming in a few feet of water along a feeble river set that has been built in someone’s bath tub. There’s croc stock footage too, badly integrated into the film and passed off as original material. The croc changes size and shape in every scene but when it has been brought to life with so many different techniques it was always going to be impossible to maintain consistency. The scenes of it attacking the villages look familiar especially after you realise that it’s the same scene (the same villagers desperately trying to escape gives it away) which has just been cut up a few times across the film.

The problem isn’t so much that the effects are terrible (which they are truly), it’s that the film is so badly edited that it’s impossible to even get a good look to see how bad things are. Scenes are woefully shot, not properly framed, badly lit and just overly incoherent. This isn’t just the crocodile scenes but everything. When the croc attacks, the scenes are so frenetically edited that literally every new frame of footage is a different shot. Everything looks so murky that it’s hopeless to even try and guess what’s going on.

The final third borrows wholesomely from Jaws, as a group of men set off on board a boat to kill the crocodile including the salty sea dog with a personal grudge against the crocodile and the young upstart who wants to make a name for himself. Despite the plagiarising, Crocodile can’t even muster a decent moment during this part of the film and actually ends with no clear resolution – has the beast been overcome and did the hero survive? If someone knows, please tell me because the film ends abruptly. The Jaws-like theme music which signals the crocodile’s presence can be overlooked given how pretty much every killer shark/crocodile flick has featured a similar one since.

I could single out numerous sequences from Crocodile which would have you rolling with unintentional laughter. But you haven’t lived until you’ve seen the shot of a pair of divers carrying along a giant underwater bear trap in an attempt to capture the crocodile. On a list of one hundred ways to kill a crocodile, this would not come anywhere near the top. The reason I highlight this sequence out of many is just the absurdity of the film. It’s not once played for laughs and takes everything seriously yet cheese like this just cries out for a light-hearted tough. Look at Alligator to see how easy it is to bring a more comic touch to such material.

 

The American Humane Association rated Crocodile as unacceptable due to the footage of a real crocodile being slashed to death with a knife. I’d have just rated it as unacceptable due to how woeful it is. Has to be a contender for one of the worst films ever made and definitely one of the worst to come out of Thailand.

 

 ☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Dinocroc (2004)

Dinocroc (2004)

It feeds on fear.

Scientists at the Gereco Corporation discover an accelerated growth hormone in the fossils of a prehistoric super-crocodile and extract the DNA to create new prototypes of the dinosaur back in the lab. However one of the infant crocodiles kills an employee and manages to escape into a local lake where it begins to eat anything and anyone in its path. The corporation hires a famous reptile hunter to bring it back but he isn’t the only one who is out to stop it.

 

It seems like an eternity since Dinocroc was released in 2004 but that’s been mainly down to the ridiculous number of ‘prehistoric creatures on the loose’ films that have emerged from the Roger Corman stable since. Dinocroc was one of the ‘pioneering’ efforts that paved the way for such classics as Dinoshark and Supergator and then the inevitable Dinocroc Vs Supergator. It sees that Corman struck straight-to-DVD gold when he began producing these cheap modern monster movies and has been mining it dry ever since.

This doesn’t mean to say that Dinocroc is in any way, shape or form an original film. To say that there’s been nearly ten years between it being released and this review, the formula has not changed one bit. So much so that you could quite easily swap out the dinocroc creature here and place in a giant snake or other carnivorous monster and there would be no difference to the overall narrative. The only reason any sane person would tune in to watch is to see what a giant prehistoric crocodile that can walk on two legs actually looks like. I was half-expecting some animatronic puppetry but Dinocroc joins the twentieth century by bringing its monster to life in CGI. It comes off looking like a low-rent version of the 1998 Americanised Godzilla. It bugs me that the monster is so alike – could effects man-turned-director Kevin O’Neill not have thought of anything more original? I mean he’s got a blank slate to design a cool-looking dinocroc and just wastes it by creating mini-Godzilla. There’s not a hint of crocodile in here at all.

Even with a generic look, the effects are really poor and there’s not too many variations on the animations. So whilst you see a lot of the monster, it’s always the same shots of it rampaging through the swamp. The CGI effects also lend it ridiculous speed and agility, a common fault with many modern monsters. Surely something this big and cumbersome would be slow and stealthy? But it can swim faster than a speed boat when it needs to and can outpace a jeep when on land. It is also given some silly Gregorian chanting music theme so whenever it appears on screen, this unholy demonic choir begin singing. I don’t know what the intention was with this but I’m pretty sure the resultant effect on the film isn’t what they wanted it to be. With severed heads and bloody limbs flying around and at the camera, the death scenes are at least gory and some come out of nowhere. It’s a shame that the effects don’t stand up to much scrutiny when they do happen.

Whilst Dinocroc wracks up the clichés and rigidly sticks to the rules for the most, there are odd moments where it threatens to break free of its shackles and become entertaining. It never does however, despite graphically feeding a young child to the dinocroc in one shocking scene. It gets well fed too with the amount of non-characters that find themselves trapped between its jaws. There are plenty of stereotypical characters on display but as they’re all sort-of essential to the story, there’s no chance of them getting harmed until the finale. From bitchy corporate villains, to no-nonsense local sheriffs, scientists appalled with how their creation has turned out and a local animal control officer who will no doubt find love with the hero of the piece by the time the credits roll (who also happens to be her ex-boyfriend).

Costas Mandylor, who went on to greater fame as Jigsaw’s protégé in the Saw films, stars in the lead role as the token ‘great white hunter’ character who is tasked with tracking down and killing the creature. Mandylor plays the Aussie role like a more jacked-up version of the late Steve Irwin. But whilst the role cries out for a tongue-in-cheek parody performance, Mandylor, and the film for that matter, keeps things all serious and dull. Veteran character actor Charles Napier is on hand as, surprise surprise, the local badass sheriff. Napier can do these roles in his sleep, which is most likely where you’ll be after an hour or so of this.

 

Dinocroc is what happens when Roger Corman decides to blend Jurassic Park, Godzilla and Alligator together. It’s pretty worthless overall but I know some of you out there won’t be able to resist the lure of another prehistoric creature feature flick.

 

 ★★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Lake Placid: The Final Chapter (2012)

Lake Placid: The Final Chapter (2012)

It’s anything but tasteless…

Black Lake is swarming with giant crocodiles and so after the previous problems with people being killed, a large electrified perimeter fence is erected all the way around to stop the crocs getting out and people getting in. However that doesn’t deter a group of teenagers who sneak in whilst on a school trip and soon find themselves on the menu.

 

Will this series ever stop? This is the fourth entry into the Lake Placid series, each getting progressively worse. I don’t see the attraction. Lake Placid was a slightly diverting little timewaster back in the late 90s which probably garnered more attention that it should have done given the high profile cast but was sliced to bits by the critics and performed poorly in the box office. It has since gone on to receive some minor cult acclaim but let’s face it: it wasn’t good enough to warrant a sequel, let alone three sequels!

Following on from the previous instalment by bringing back Yancy Butler’s bad ass hunter character in a new job as the game warden (even though it looked like she was dead), Lake Placid: The Final Chapter at least tries to connect itself with the previous films. Butler was the best thing about the last film and is arguably the best thing here, continuing her overacting through spunky delivery with a host of cracking lines that tell it how it is to the other characters. Unfortunately she’s the only one in the film to even try which is a real pity as genre legend Robert Englund has a small role but completely phones it in.

So what’s new in the series? Well not a lot. After ditching its original North American location shoot, these films now use a Bulgarian lake to double up for its Canadian counterpart. Though the setting looks beautiful, it still reminded me of every other Sy Fy film that had been shot in Bulgaria as they tend to use the same locations. Given the recycled nature of material on display, it’s hard to distinguish between what happens here and what happens in similar creature feature films. And that’s Lake Placid: The Final Chapter‘s most obvious problem – it’s not memorable in the slightest. No standout performer. No standout kill. No standout nudity. No standout soundtrack. No standout monster. Nothing. Just another off the production line. This time next year, I’ll no doubt be saying the same thing about the umpteenth killer crocodile film.

Frequent creature attacks with dubious CGI effects are the hallmarks of the overwhelming wave of Sy Fy / Asylum monster movies of late and if you think you’re going to get through Lake Placid: The Final Chapter without seeing some, think again. The crocs look terrible, some of the worst I’ve seen (and that’s saying something). There’s always something a bit more realistic and believable in actors being munched down by animatronic models but when you’ve got massive CGI crocs that can run nearly as fast as a truck and sneak up on people without making a sound, then you’ve got an entirely different style of film. This one doesn’t play to the laws of nature, having the crocs do all sorts of things that real crocs wouldn’t be able to do as easily, if at all. Sadly, this just disconnects the film from reality – we’re never going to be scared of anything that we know isn’t possible and seeing the crocs move as fast and stealthily as they do here will generate chuckles rather than scares.

The crocs are well fed, which is a given with these films now, but the attacks come too regular, are over with too quickly and follow the same pattern. Would one slow, brutal mauling be more effective to the audience than continually showing us the same thing which over and done within a couple of seconds? Think back to Jaws and how few people the shark kills but the attack scenes aren’t just over and done with, the camera dwells on them for a few minutes to revel in nature’s cruelty. Lake Placid: The Final Chapter, and the rest of these creature feature films, equate the number of people killed on screen with scaring the audience. There’s no emotional attachment to anyone in the film. The slew of minor non-characters who are introduced only to get killed moments later detaches the carnage from any empathic connection.

Films like this need filler too and before the crocs are well and truly unleashed upon the cast in the second half of the film, the first half of the film is devoted to building characters, exploring back story and generally trying to pass the time as generically as possible. Single mom with a teenage daughter and a single father and a teenage son who are drawn together in the midst of a crisis sounds like the sort of yucky material that the film needs….oh wait that’s what happens. Pass me the sick bucket as I wait for the crocs to finally start snacking.

 

It should be said that no one in their right mind would sit down to watch Lake Placid: The Final Chapter without having a) a tolerance for truly woeful films, b) the desire to see every film in a series no matter how terrible they are, or c) actually enjoy this sort of rubbish. I kind of fall into all categories but even so, Lake Placid: The Final Chapter pushed me to my limits. The worst thing is that despite the title, the end shot promises more to come……..urgh.

 

 ★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Killer Crocodile 2 (1990)

Killer Crocodile 2 (1990)

Liza Post is a New York journalist interested in a story about the cleaning up of a stretch of polluted river and swamp in the Caribbean which is to be made into a holiday resort. However she finds out that some barrels of radioactive material are unaccounted for when she arrives to investigate. This nuclear waste, responsible for mutating a giant crocodile that wreaked havoc in this area before it was cleaned up, has given rise to another giant crocodile which is killing off anyone unfortunate to be on the water. Crocodile hunter Kevin Jones, responsible for killing the original monster, is called on for help when Liza goes missing.

 

Quite why, in 1990, the Italians were still trying to rip off Jaws remains to be seen. That fad had all but died everywhere else thanks to the countless scores of shameless imitators in the years following Spielberg’s original. But the Italians still saw quick cash in this sub-genre and were content to churn out these progressively-worse creature features. The first Killer Crocodile was passable at best – the typical product of Italian exploitation cinema with cheap special effects, over-the-top gore, sloppy editing, actors desperately slumming and then being dubbed by even worse voice actors and soundtracks which were usually the most original thing on offer.

If a lot of Killer Crocodile 2 looks familiar, it’s because that it was shot at the same time as Killer Crocodile just with different directors shooting different parts (the special effects guy was given a week to shoot extra for this sequel). In fact the films are so alike that it’s almost impossible to tell them apart. There even seems to be a lot of similarities with earlier Italian exploitation croc flick The Big Alligator River. Three films which blur into one is never a good sign of the quality and originality of any of them. At least two of the stars of the original, Richard Anthony Crenna and Ennio Girolami, are back reprising their roles to add some continuity.

Killer Crocodile 2 is a flimsy sequel which for all intents and purposes could have been edited together using leftover footage and outtakes instead of separately-shot material. There’s little in the way of story and what there is could have been written on the back of a postage stamp. Set pieces are impractical (the croc seems to be able to rear itself out of the water and walk along the surface), laughable (one character falls off the back of the croc and the slow motion shot of him falling makes it look like he’s taken a parachute dive out of a helicopter for the amount of air time he gets) and badly edited (in one attack scene the croc’s position relevant to a boat changes with every shot, giving the impression that the croc is swimming away from its meal).

This isn’t to say that Killer Crocodile 2 doesn’t have its moments. There’s a decent attack scene in which the croc bursts through the wall of a jungle hut to snack on its occupants. Some scenes just embody the “anything goes” nature of these Italian exploitation films. In America, harming kids is a major no-go area as far as films go but the Italians think nothing of feeding a boatful of kids and their guardian nun to the crocodile after it attacks their boat. Not high on scares or quality but definitely top for some unintentional chuckles!

I’m not sure whether it’s the same crocodile model from the original or a new one but it looks alright. The problem is that you see too much of it and so its effect gets less and less over time. Crocodiles are clever hunters in real life, remaining hidden for as long as possible before they strike but this reptile is quite happy posing for the camera. In the final confrontation, it appears that a toy model with an action figure strapped to its back is thrown into a pond to recreate the effect of Kevin attempting to ride on its back. Not exactly cutting edge effects work but good for some laughs.

Riz Ortolani does his best John Williams impersonation with an overplayed score that sounds so much like the Jaws theme that it’s a wonder Universal didn’t come calling with the legal papers.

 

I think you get the message that Killer Crocodile 2 is very low on quality and originality but very high on cheap cheese. It is every inch the lazy cut-and-paste job that it was meant to be, designed to maximise profit whilst cutting costs at every opportunity. You may find some daft amusement from this but the original is a far better film overall, something that I never thought I’d see myself write.

 

 ★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Death Trap (1977)

Death Trap (1977)

He’s out there and he’s got murder on his mind!

A psychotic redneck runs a dilapidated hotel in the backwater swamps of Louisiana, killing people who upset him or his business and feeding them to his giant pet crocodile that he keeps locked up in the swamp.

 

Tobe Hooper’s follow up to The Texas Chain Saw Massacreis this? Boy, the dude really fell from grace quickly didn’t he? Shot in the same grainy, low budget style that made The Texas Chain Saw Massacresuch a grim classic, Death Trapcomes off as wanting to be a Leatherface and co. follow up but never really does anything worthwhile to achieve that goal. It’s almost as if Hooper caught lightning in bottle with his previous film and attempts to replicate that success, simply substituting backwoods Texas for rural Louisiana. Whilst Death Trap isn’t a particularly well-made film, there’s no question that it’s got a strangely perverse quality which warrants at least a look.

Death Trap’s main problem is that the narrative is all over the place. The story here doesn’t follow any major plot threads and meanders between the numerous random strangers who end up at the hotel before being offed by crazy Judd for whatever reason. There is the underlying search for the missing hooker from the beginning but most of the characters who visit the hotel aren’t involved in this search so it begs the question of whether it is actually the main plot or not. We never really know what pushes Judd over the edge to kill either so by the time he’s taken care of another stranger, you’re just happy to sit back and believe that the guy is just a total fruitcake. The script really needed some serious work here.

As expected for a low budget film, the crocodile doesn’t look too hot (or an alligator as some characters in the film claim) and has limited movement. But thankfully Hooper realised this and keeps it mainly covered in the swamp, only using it sparingly for a few shots where actors try and free themselves from the jaws of the model monster. No one and nothing is spared from this croc, even a poor dog!

But the croc isn’t the main source of violence from the film – that comes from Judd himself who is a dab hand with a scythe. Hooper shoots the death scenes here with gritty realism. Too often in horror films, one blow is enough to kill someone. Here, Hooper strings the death out, causing victims to bleed or gasp for breath as they hit the floor, trying in vain to escape or defend themselves. Death isn’t instant and this is where Hooper earns brownie points. As with The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, you know that the victims here are suffering and going through hell before they eventually die. There’s a reasonably smattering of blood and Hooper even throws in some T&A to try and liven things up. But Death Trap is slow going and excitement is in short supply. The scenes drag out way longer than needed, the exposition takes for too long and there are only a handful of half-decent set pieces which are few and far between.

As for the cast, well it’s a pretty decent bunch of performances given the craziness around them. Neville Brand is great as Judd. I don’t think he had much of a clue where the character should be heading so he went for it and it works though Hooper could have cut back the amount of time he gave to his rambling monologues. Robert Englund, looking very young and pre-Freddy Krueger fame, appears as a horny redneck that uses the hotel as a meeting ground for hookers. Marilyn Burns, fresh from screaming her lungs out in the finale of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, is also in the film.

 

Death Trap is far too similar to The Texas Chain Saw Massacre to work, given that it’s not a patch on its predecessor and seems content in trying to replicate its success without knowing why it has become a classic. Death Trap has got a few decent moments but there’s very little to stop the craziness, an incoherent script and lack of solid direction from ripping it up.

 

 ★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Blood Surf (2000)

Blood Surf (2000)

Ride the next wave in terror

A camera crew travel to some remote islands to make a make a documentary about the new craze of ‘blood surfing’ in which surfers cut themselves and start surfing in shark-infested waters. However they soon find out that it’s not the sharks that they have to worry about, it’s a giant saltwater crocodile which likes the taste of human flesh.

 

Blood Surf contains a half-decent premise (I’m wondering whether anyone has actually picked up on blood surfing for real as an extreme sport) but expectedly the execution has a lot to be desired. Coming hot on the heels of big budget crocodile flick Lake Placid, Blood Surf tries it’s hardest to become a similarly fun creature feature film. But despite its best intentions and blatant pandering to a certain male demographic, quality always tells and sadly there’s a distinct lack of it here.

Blood Surf is a horror film for surfers. The theme song sounds a lot like the Jaws theme, only done in surfing-style music. The two male leads are dumb surfer ‘dudes.’ There’s a lot of surfing dialogue and terminology. And of course, there is plenty of surfing at the start of the film. The actual ‘blood surfing’ of the title is over and done with pretty quickly and then the film drifts straight into creature feature mode, doing its best to channel Jaws complete with a salty sea dog character who is obsessed with killing the croc whatever it takes. Within the first ten minutes, it’s easy enough to decide which characters will become croc chow and when they will bite the dust. They’re all generally unlikeable which makes the process of elimination even more painful. Can’t they all just die at the same time and be done with it?

The crocodile doesn’t really make an appearance until half-way through and when you eventually see it, you know why they kept it hidden. The special effects, not just for the croc, are unimpressive. Watch, laugh and groan as super-imposed sharks swim towards the surfers or see speeded-up (and very brief) shots of crocodiles moving through undergrowth. Worse yet, watch possibly the most fake-looking crocodile ever conceived leap out of the water with absolutely no body movement, grab someone by the head and then drag him into the depths. Miniatures were obviously used in some shots. CGI in others. Stock footage at others. In some scenes it looks as if a giant model is being pulled along on a wheelbarrow. The theory of creating good special effects is to blend different techniques together in order to give on-screen monsters the greatest reality possible. Blood Surf just botches everything together and hopes that it will stick. Unfortunately for the viewer, it doesn’t. Attack scenes are over and done with quickly, lacking any sort of realism or explicit violence. Crocodiles eating meat should never be this tranquil – they’re violent ordeals with twisting, turning and lots of teeth-clenching. The most glaring issue with the crocodile is that the saltwater species are not known for their activeness – they prefer to lay in wait for their prey and strike hard and fast., not leap around and stalk across land like it does here.

The film makers must have thought that gratuitous (and in this case, completely unnecessary) sex and nudity would have made some people forget about the other problems. Wrong. Despite the fact that nearly every female character (and they’re all hot in their own way) get their kit off (or wears revealing swimwear), it is clear pandering. The sex scenes are extended and overlong, bordering on soft core at times. I’m all for a bit of nudity to liven things up but this is shameless!

 

There’s a good ‘bad’ movie lurking around in the shadows of Blood Surf somewhere and, despite the blood and boobs on show, the script is too lightweight for its own good and there are too many inept special effects to consider this anything other than throwaway junk.

 

 ★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆