Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Movies: "Eh, I'm sure the first-class passengers are fine."

The Netflix copy that appears on the white slip pocket for Crocodile 2: Death Swamp (a.k.a. Crocodile 2: Death Roll for you Brits who, I guess, don't enjoy films with "swamp" in their title) ends with the following comparison: "Think a scaly Jaws."

This comparison isn't totally inapt, though the Jaws they're thinking of is Jaws 3.

C2: DS or R is a unconnected follow-up to Crocodile, the 2000 straight-to-video data point on Tobe Hooper's long downward spiral from legendary horror director to guy-who-makes-stuff-like-Crocodile. The only link between the two films is the presence of the titular reptiles. So, if you thought that all the nagging questions that Crocodile left you with were going to finally receive the answers that viewers demanded, you are going to be sorely disappointed.

Even if you didn't want those answers, don't get smug – you're going to be sorely disappointed too.

C2: DS or R starts off as a heist flick. A group of four bank-robbers roll a small southwestern bank only to have their "carefully planned" heist go all Wild Bunch on them when police arrive at the party early. The robbers blast their way out and – cut – make it to the airport where they board a plane for Mexico. Joining them on this flight are several supporting characters, including two stews (the smart one and the panicky one who, improbably, is afraid of flying), the winner of a trivia bowl contest on his prize trip, the plane's pilot, a nurse, and an ambulance chasing lawyer.

To round out the cast, we are also introduced to the smart stew's fiancée, who is waiting for her in Mexico.

The flight takes off and encounters some nasty weather (weather so bad, in fact, that it actually changes the configuration of the plane they're flying in). The captain is told to turn his crate around and notifies the passengers and crew of this development. This doesn't sit well with our criminals and they seize the plane and force the captain to fly on. Like their bank-robbery plan, this doesn't go so well either. Some gunplay in the cabin dooms the flight and they crash down in a vast and trackless swamp. On impact, the first class cabin actually sheers off the economy-section, which then promptly explodes. (Didn't you always suspect that's what happens when a plane goes down? The cheap seats just blow up and the first class folks get to walk away?) This leaves our tiny cast stranded in the swamp.

Meanwhile, Smartie's fiancée hires a tracker he randomly encounters in a bar to track the missing plane down. He does this instead of going to the authorities because the Mexican government seems profoundly unconcerned about searching for downed airliners. This is, I believe, a sad reality of life south of the boarder. Hundreds of thousands of passenger jets go down in Mexico every year, but the Mexican government's attitude is, "Eh, I'm sure the first-class passengers are fine."

We should pause here because there's a noticeable shift in the flick. The set-up of C2: DS or R is, curiously, a very different flick from what follows. The robbery and botched escape gives Gary Jones the chance to play with some 70s grindhouse-era elements, from the clunky title fonts to the use of split screen. And, to his credit, he uses these retro visuals confidently. In fact, his evocation of the cheapie exploitation aesthetic is, in some ways, more sincere and genuine than the ironic, winking, non-committal efforts of a flick like Grindhouse. The former is genuinely a cheap effort to make something visually appealing, the latter is sort of a Disney version: enough to make you feel you're there without making you suffer through any of the downsides of the real experience. That said, Grindhouse is, of course, better if only because a believable recreation of crap is, for all intents and purposes, crap.

After we've stranded our croc-bait in an environment with suitable waist deep water, the flicks visuals calm down and what we get is a fairly by the numbers body count flick, given a slight spin by the group's robber/hostage dynamic. Shortly after crash down, the group is attacked - and partially devoured - by an outsized croc. The robbers promptly dispatch it and then make the unarmed survivors mule their loot through the swamp. But the robbers never counted on the powerful maternal instincts of the common North American crocodile. On finding her baby dispatched, Momma Croc's heart turns black and only bloodshed will quench her thirst for revenge! This emotional dynamic is common is many large aquatic predators. It is not only common in crocs (Crocodile) but great white sharks as well (Jaws 3).

As Momma Croc begins to pick off the cast one by one, Fiancée and tracker attempt a rescue. But will it be too late to our stranded hostages?

Yeah. For most of them.

Oh. Wait. I meant to leave that a cliffhanger.

Regular readers of ANTSS know that I'll pretty much watch anything with a giant alligator or crocodile in it. Tell me that you've got a flick in which a giant croc lurks in the potted plants of a bowling alley and preys on the wacky regulars of league night - the plot of the Mario Bava 1975 classic Beyond the Crystal Door of the Torture Chamber of Professor Blood Madness, L.L.D., 2: Dark Whispers in the Tomb of the Laughing Tears (a.k.a. Scream, Terry, Scream) – and I'll go along, despite my better judgment. This flick, while pretty much on par with the previous installment in the "series," pushes the limits of even my utterly uncritical indulgence. If you're a normal human with a perfect healthy lack of interest in the revenge fantasies of postpartum mother crocodiles, there's really little of interest for you here.


Bankrobber said...

you brought up a good point , the revenge tendencies of slighted maneaters. ever see jaws 4? the chief is dead so what does the slighted shark do ? it kills one son and then follows the mom to jamaica and tries to kill her, the other son and his family. pound for pound utter junk. michael caine stars (slums) in it too.

netflicking it now.

CRwM said...

Mr. B,

Man, how did I forget Jaws "This Time It's Personal" 4?

Though, technically, I guess one would have to argue J3 was personal too. I guess "It's still a very personal matter" lacks marketing muscle.

I've heard tell that, for a long stretch in the middle of Caine's career, he was selecting projects solely on the basis of location. He figured that he made money no matter what the finished product looked like, so he might as well just choose gigs that would allow him to enjoy places like the Bahamas (or whatever tropical paradise J4 was filmed in). I don't know if that's true, but it would explain how he ended up in that pic.

(I also heard that he wouldn't wear shoes on indoor sets, so directors had to avoid full body shots of Caine unless they could get him outdoors, on location. Again, I can't confirm this.)

I do know, and can confirm, that Caine - for reasons unknown - refuses to accept honorary degrees from universities. Queen's College of London has tried for years to get him to take one - he lives in the shadow of their campus and can sometimes be found roaming their grounds - and he's never returned their calls. Numerous other colleges have been shot down too. Nobody is quite sure why he won't take one.

Hunh, this turned into a rambling Caine-o-rama. Sorry about the lack of focus.

spacejack said...

Well I'm not sure what's up with all the killer crocodile movies. But so long as they keep making them, I'll keep reading your hilarious reviews of them.

Special props this time for using and re-using the abbreviated title C2: DS or R.