Tobe Hooper, famed director of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Poltergeist, has always been famed for having something of a complicated sence of humour that usually veers between pitch black and weirdly goofy. In fact, heading into the twilight of his career and an unbroken series of direct to video schlock, it became rapidly tougher to figure out if Hooper had lost his touch or simply was taking the piss out of the direction his movies had taken while they were taking them.
Never was this more evident than in his 2000 killer Crocodile movie – unsurprisingly titled Crocodile – that saw one of the chief architects of modern horror reduced to making a movie about some partying teens getting bothered by a gigantic, angry Croc while they indulge in some Girls Gone Wild levels of debauchery. However, while watching this bout of croc-schlock, you can’t help notice that the old, gleeful humour Hooper loves to display rises to the surface every now and then, much like the titular leviathan itself when it fancies a tasty chunk of inebriated teen.


A gang of eight rowdy kids have arranged to get good and wasted on on a boat trip  on a remote lake in Southern California for spring break, but while most of the group just wanna get horny and do belly shots off each other, slightly less hedonistic couple Brady and Claire are reaching a rough patch in their relationship thanks to Brady getting expelled due to the antics of his best buddy, Duncan.
However, blackouts, alcohol poisoning and unprotected sex will be the least of these teen’s problems thanks to the shitty mood of Flat Dog a huge Nile Crocodile and local legend who has been ruled up by the egg-smashing antics of a couple of pot-bellied rednecks.
Unbeknownst to the kids, one of their number has found the last surviving egg and hidden it in one of the group’s backpack as a practical joke (yeah, good one) and before you know it the cranky croc has sunk their boat and consumed two of their number, leaving them stranded in the wilderness with a huge, toothy predator literally snapping at their heels.
As the survivors bicker, search for aid and then bicker some more, the local sheriff responds to reports of a mangled teen and recruits an impossibly grizzled Gator farmer to help him track down the kids before it’s too late. However, Mad Dog has quite the head start on them and as the day turns to night, more and more of our partying youths meet their ends by sliding down the Croc’s insatiable gullet. Will any of them (including the group’s dog) ever make it back to civilisation to down a brewski ever again?


As an ignoble experience as it is to watch Tobe Hooper make a killer Crocodile movie with all the budget and acting skills of your regular Asylum release, at least the presence of a legitimate horror legend means that this trashy throwaway flick has way more energy and gumption that usual shite its peers usually manage. In fact, at times, Crocodile comes dangerously close to being fun which you suspect comes from the fact that the veteran director is fully aware he’s making a piece of shit and therefore just has fun with it, giving it enough weirdness to make it significantly more lively than your usual Lake Pacid or Anaconda sequel can muster. In fact one character typically insipid line of dialogue might have accurately described Hooper’s attitude to the whole thing when one of the beer-chugging red-flags mutters: “Can we just fast-forward to the flying guts and assholes?”.
While the script demands the usual amount of typically excruciating dude bonding (let’s call them bro-ments) where toxic alpha males describe sex as boning some skeezers or laying some pipe, Hooper injects this would-be dumpster fire with just the right amount of don’t-give-a-fuck craziness to keep things lively. Maybe it’s the scene where someone reveals they’ve been keeping a severed head preserved in their beer cooler until the police arrive, or maybe it’s the moment when a horrendously rendered CGI Mad Dog leaps out of the water and over a boat like a bloodstained Free Willy, or how about moment when the croc proves it’s actually savvy enough avoid detection by actually disposing of a car of some recently digested victims like a fucking serial killer.


The kills, while deliberately goofy, are actually fairly good and while making good use of blasting water directly into his actors faces in order to simulate the sheer force of Flat Dog’s attacks, Hooper manages to sell the low budget attacks surprisingly well and even includes bloodily satisfying shots of Flat Dog slurping down a limp, chewed leg like so much spaghetti.
Something else that adds another dimension of fun to this cheapjack escapade is that the more you know about the director’s long and extremely inconsistent career, the easier it is to spot the many in-jokes Hooper’s crammed in there supposedly for his own amusement. There’s the usual, obligatory chainsaw appearance and a scene involving a screaming heroine hurtling through the woods at night by torch light; but there’s references to Hooper’s second horror film too, the little mentioned slasher Eaten Alive which also featured a croc that has a similar origin to Flat Dog in that it was first kept by a eccentric hotel owner. Also referencing the 1976 film is the seemingly indestructible Princess, who’s unparalleled survival instincts and crackerjack timing (at one point she leaps directly through Flat Dog’s jaws just before they snap shut) seem to be a direct apology for the treatment of the ill-fated poodle that got gobbled up in fair short order in that movie. Still, say what you will, but its reptile-stalking-people-who’s-stolen-its-eggs plot beat Jurassic Park III to the screen by a damn year – credit where it’s due.


In closing, it genuinely seems that Hooper’s making the best of a bad situation and his having a fucking ball as he does it – I mean, how many other movies can boast a guy getting flung up in the air by a croc and then swallowed whole, only for him to get thrown up mere moments later because he’s been spraying himself with cheap mosquito repellent for the entire movie.
Yes the acting is questionable and yes the croc – both the practical version and its ludicrously cartoonish CGI counterpart – look about as genuine as an Elvis Presley waxwork sculpted by chimps, but despite all this, Crocodile is oddly fun if you don’t make the mistake of taking it too seriously – and why would you? Hooper certainly fucking didn’t!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s