A group of young environmentalists are investigating some rural swamp lands after getting reports of illegal dumping. Their suspicions are confirmed when they find multiple barrels containing some form of radioactive waste hidden deep within the swamp. But their discovery turns into a life or death struggle, when they not only have to deal with corrupt local officials, but when they also stumble upon an abnormally large crocodile…. with a taste for human blood. The kids suspect that the creature’s stupendous size is somehow related to the radioactive waste they found in the swamp. But they don’t have much time to dwell on their theory, because the creature quickly goes on a killing spree. Now it’s up to the environmentalists and a local hunter to track down the beast and stop it’s reign of terror before it tries to nom-nom on them or any more hapless villagers.
And it does indeed love to nom-nom.
Look, I’m not gonna lie. This cheap Italian produced, eco-horror themed, blatant Jaws rip-off is not a good movie. Nope. No-siree-bob. The story is predictable, the characters are lame and incredibly stupid, the dub job is terrible and the film quality doesn’t look all that hot either. In short, it kinda sucks. But — and this is an important ‘But’ — it sucks in ways that make the film highly and ridiculously entertaining. People making completely illogical decisions? Check. Ridiculous looking monster? Check. Useless additional villain with no discernible motive to deal with? Check. A local hunter that everyone’s afraid of and who looks horribly out of place? Double check. If you’re looking for monster movie cliches this film has it all, and it picked all the dumbest ones it could find to make you cringe at.
Behold, a hardcore environmentalist, ladies and gentlemen.
But before I get into that, I’ll start off with the film’s two saving graces. The first of which is, believe it or not, the crocodile itself. Now, I can’t find anything close to a specific number, so I’m not sure what kind of funds this movie had to work with, but after watching the film I’m pretty confident that the answer to that inquiry is: not much. So there’s a bummer. But what’s not a bummer is that it’s also pretty clear that just about every Lira they had to work with went into making the titular monster. He grunts, he growls, and it looks like they were able to reliably use him in the water for more than two scenes, which was ten times better than what Spielberg ever had to work with. Is it perfect? Gods no. It’s eyes have the dead-eyed stare of painted on plastic, they utilize a couple smaller models for certain scenes, so the damn thing’s size seems to fluctuate sporadically, and I’m pretty sure that the jaws on the main model only have two modes: all the way shut, or all the way open. This is a crocodile that doesn’t do shit half-way. So yeah, he looks kinda campy, but it also has its moments where it looks creepy and ominous too, so I’ll give them credit for being at least partially successful, which is damned impressive considering what little they had to work with. They did such a good job that it’s almost enough to forgive the movie’s moments of stupidity, like when they made it look like this fiberglass monstrosity was leaping out of the brush as if it was about to attack a boat mid-air. For the life of me, I can’t figure out what their logic was for that scene at all. I guess they were going for a jump scare, but it just comes off as looking completely ridiculous. Though, to be fair, as a native Floridian who is quite literally surrounded by alligators every day, I can assure you that no matter how unconcerned I was with them before, it would indeed be pants-shittingly terrifying finding out one day that those prehistoric bastards had suddenly learned to jump.
Fuck! We’re all doomed!
The movie’s other highlight, at least as far as horror fans are concerned, is the gore. The blood in this movie is surprisingly plentiful, thanks to the crocodile consuming several characters. Limbs are torn off, pets are eaten, suspicious red pools appear from the depths of the swamp. This film in no way skimped out on the red stuff. Of course, some of it looks better than others, but for a low-budget film it doesn’t look half bad. Though you do tend to notice some of the cheapness when the camera lingers on certain scenes. I guess the paint and plastic they used for the torn limbs didn’t react well to the swamp water.
“Ah! My obviously fake arm! Ah!”
Now with that out of the way, let’s move on to the film’s glorious crap. The dialogue in this thing is already pretty atrocious, but the obvious dub just makes it even more cringy. Once again people…. have to…. talk like…. this, in order to get the sound to match up with the mouth movements, making already dumb characters seem all the more brain damaged. The environmentalist kids, in particular, get the worst lines. They’re really supposed to be the, quote-unquote Heroes, of the movie, but they come across as so obnoxious that you’ll be hoping the damn reptile eats all of them before the movie is half-way over. If they’re not busy flip-flopping on their purpose in the swamp or what should be done with the crocodile (“Oh, you have to do something about this Judge! But wait! It’s an environmental miracle! You can’t kill it! We’ll stop you! Oh, wait, it ate one of us, so now we have to kill it! It’s our duty!), they’re being condescending assholes to one another. At one point the photographer asks the chemist of the group if she thinks the radioactive waste is responsible for the crocodile’s size, and she speculates that it might not be related, and that it might actually be a marine crocodile they’re dealing with, because they can grow much larger. Which, when you think about it, actually makes a lot more sense (Hell, it’s the excuse the Lake Placid filmmakers used) than it being a radioactive crocodile. But of course the damn PHOTOGRAPHER completely dismisses her theory because, nope, it totally has to be the radioactive waste, because I guess he figures his liberal arts degree trumps the years she spent getting her masters. Considering he was the one who caused his friend to get eaten, I was kinda pissed he lived to the end of the movie.
Ugh. Of course the lizard ate the one cast member who wasn’t obnoxious.
And speaking of idiotic characters, this movie is just filled past the brim of their fair share. I don’t even know where to begin with these morons. The most egregious example may be when the crocodile first makes its major appearance at the village. The creature breaks off one of the sides of a “T” shaped dock, leaving a little girl clinging on to the undamaged part of the pier for dear life, while the enormous reptile tries to climb up the broken part to nip at her ankles. First, everyone just gathers in a big huddle in feigned shock near the shore, as if none of them have a perfectly good view of what’s going on. Then, when someone finally does run to the end of the dock to help her, do you think he does the sensible thing and grabs her by the arms to pull her up? Oh, hell no. He jumps down, onto the fallen part of the pier, to dangle next to her and tries to push her up instead. For his act of monumental stupidity, he quickly becomes croc-chow. The next guy doesn’t fare much better I’m afraid. That dumb sap manages to get his leg stuck in a Surprise! hole in the pier, and then instead of simply pulling his leg up, he dangles it there for a good solid minute to tempt the monster, and then gets drugged down into the swamp to become the entree.
Oh-my-god! My leg fell through a huge hole! I’m helpless!
And before you say, “Wait, it seems super odd that all the “natives” are dying and not the white folks.” Let me alleviate your suspicions by confirming that, yes, this movie 100% has a white savior complex. The environmentalists are white, the hunter is white, the medical examiner is white, and the local judge, the only lawman in the area, is also white. Hell, even the guy dumping waste into the swamp is white. So, yes, basically all the people with any semblance of authority are white and taking advantage of the natives in some way, either by exploiting them or lording their power or intellect over them. But even the people who are heralded as the “smart” ones here, act with little to no common sense. My favorite example of this is the hunter, Joe (played by Ennio Girolami, who is perhaps the only decent actor in the whole film). He’s supposed to be the wise, local pro, having lived in the swamp for 30-years and knowing it like the back of his hand, etc, etc… You get the idea. He’s basically this movie’s version of Quint, or better yet, Crocodile Dundee, since his outfit looks better suited for something out of the Australian Outback or going on a safari, than it does swamp hunting. Anyway, when this expert finally manages to track down the beast he pulls out a harpoon in order to stab it. But I guess the side of the boat was messing with his swing, so he jumps over the side of the boat (people are forever jumping off boats in this movie, it’s the damned-est thing…) and stands on the crocodile’s back so he can stab him better. Miraculously, instead of rolling the stabby pest off him, the crocodile lets him do this (probably because they couldn’t get their fiberglass beast to do anything close to even resembling a roll) and he just swims away, slowly sinking into the swamp, completely unfazed, as Joe continues to stab him as they both go down, leaving Kevin the environmental guy (and the film’s poor excuse for the main hero) looking on in complete unearned despair, as if he hadn’t just witnessed one of the most moronic things he’d ever seen a human being do. The croc’s not dead at this point, mind you. Joe just seemed to think this was the most ridiculous way to make everyone think he’d chosen to end his miserable existence. I’m sure the filmmakers thought the scene looked pretty badass written out in the script like that, but boy-howdy…. Did they miss that mark.
Uh, Joe, did you maybe not think this through?
So…. yeah. Killer Crocodile is a dumb movie. LIke, very dumb. The plot is dumb, the dialogue is dumb and the characters are super-duper dumb. But in the end, so much of it is so stupid that it winds up just being stupid fun. I mean, the crocodile looks decent for what it is, the soundtrack isn’t bad, even if most of it is only two to three notes away from having the Jaws producers come after the filmmakers for copyright infringement, and you get to watch a lot of people get horrifically and humorously eaten after witnessing them inexplicably jump off all their own boats (Seriously, so many people jump off boats….). I don’t know about you, but when I watch a monster movie, that’s considered a good time. So if you’re a fan of the cheap ridiculousness of the monster movies of the 50s, or just need something to watch for a good laugh, then you could do a lot worse than Killer Crocodile.
Oh, and here’s a fun bit of movie fact: Killer Crocodile was actually filmed simultaneously with it’s sequel, Killer Crocodile 2.
Guess what I’m watching next.
Killer Crocodile is available on a variety of streaming services, including free on Tubi TV.
It is also available on Bluray.
And here’s just a bonus picture of one of the many idiots just falling out of their boat.
One thought on “Killer Crocodile (1989)”
This sounds reasonable to me! I went to Florida once but I didn’t see any crocodiles, just a bunch of bugs. I also drank a pumpkin beer and I hated every drop of it but I was in an airport so I finished it because I’m a completist.
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