When sharks became passé for Italian filmmakers, they turned their particular brand of aquatic horror towards its brethren—lest we think crocodiles don’t deserve their own bloody spotlight, we were bequeathed um, Killer Crocodile (1989), a fun Jaws homage with enough Italian charm to put it over. Needless to say, it arrives in a spiffy new Blu-ray from those purveyors of the weird and wonderful, Severin Films.
Fabrizio De Angelis’ (aka Larry Ludman) biggest claim in the horror world was producing some of Lucio Fulci’s biggest and well-known films; from Zombie (1979) through Manhattan Baby (1982) he helped Fulci realize his visions to worldwide success. But Killer Crocodile wasn’t him trying to stake his own claim in the film world; this was the tenth film he directed, and if he doesn’t have quite the macabre hallucinatory touch of his former collaborator, he knows how to string together some gnarly deaths in a light and breezy way. Killer Crocodile may not possess any tension, but it sure has a good time pretending.
A couple is on the beach in Santo Domingo; he strums his guitar, she heads into the water for a dip. She doesn’t notice the scaly monster until it’s too late, and is dragged through the waters while her frantic lothario watches. This is our start, and it’s a good one. We’re next introduced to our pack of protagonists, a group of ecologists from the States who are measuring the high levels of radioactivity in the water; they soon find it comes from toxic waste being dumped, courtesy of local law: the judge, jury, and executioner named, uh, Judge (Van Johnson – The Caine Mutiny). He’s none too cooperative and continually threatens our heroes.
So they take it upon themselves to dig deeper in the jungle, and they’re soon face to face with the gigantic creature. At first they want it saved; that is until they start to witness their own being munched upon, at which point they become pro-termination, and fast. To the rescue comes local hunter Joe (Ennio Girolami – Escape from the Bronx), a man wise with knowledge who enthusiastically accepts his role as Quint Lite. Can (who’s left of) our team defeat the mighty reptile, and if not, perhaps in the sequel?
Killer Crocodile, from the title on down, most definitely cribs from Jaws. From the DUH-DUH music to the critter’s POV shots, the filmmakers have spared no expense (okay, a lot of expense) to remind you of Spielberg’s classic. This is why I love the Italians’ take on popular culture in film—they never shy away from their influences, they wear them on their sleeves. Subtlety shouldn’t hold any truck, because subtlety or not, you’re going to pick up on the fact that a giant creature attacking people in the water will remind you of something. And it won’t be Piranha or Barracuda.
So with that in mind, the viewer is free to relax and enjoy 90 minutes of limb-ripping goodness, punctuated by expository and dialogue scenes served up in a perfunctory yet entertaining fashion; at least they’re not talking about zombies this time around, right? Context is everything, and watching a better-than-expected model careen around the water chomping on day players and stars alike is a refreshing change of pace from the lumbering living dead. Killer Crocodile may feel like leftovers sometimes, but there’s enough blood left in the water to satisfy the most hardened horror lover.
As for special features, Severin Films rarely disappoints, and this is no exception:
The film has been cleaned up nicely; a touch of grain remains because dammit, it was the ‘80s and it belongs. All the interviews are great. Giannetto De Rossi, the FX legend, is open and honest (as the Italians on these always are) about his involvement and how he ended up in the director’s chair for the sequel, and Richard Anthony Crenna (yes, his dad was you-know-who) gives an American’s viewpoint on working in a strange environment. The rest help to give a solid picture on a knockoff that turned out more loveable than I’m sure they were expecting.
If, like me, you enjoy dipping your toe (or plunging headfirst) into aquatic horror, Killer Crocodile is a good time; it’s never less than entertaining, and Grade A chum for those craving some Italian. Divertiti!
Movie Score: 3.5/5, Disc Score: 4/5