BluRay/DVD Reviews


By • Dec 26th, 2000 •

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(Trimark) 2000
94 mins

Tobe Hooper. It doesn’t seem so long ago that he was sitting in my apartment on West 56th Street in New York City, chatting with me about The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which he’d just directed. That was his auspicious debut, which I’d gone to see with my eight-months-pregnant wife, and she never forgave me. But I loved the film, and told him so, and I showed him part of my 16mm print of The Last House on the Left, because he’d heard there was a chainsaw scene in it but hadn’t seen it. Of course there was no similarity between the two films, other than genre incidentals, and Chainsaw still holds up as a brilliant exercise in sustained terror and implied gore.

What has become of Tobe since…? Here he is, making his second film about a crocodile, and it isn’t a sequel. Has anyone ever done something like that? Okay, the first was about an alligator. Nontheless. It came out in 1976 and was called Eaten Alive, aka Brutes and Savages, aka Death Trap, aka Horror Hotel, aka Horror Hotel Massacre, aka Legend of the Bayou, aka Murder on the Bayou, aka Starlight Slaughter. Call it what you wish, that film didn’t work, though it contained a great many Hooper trademark touches, and if you’d like to see it, Elite Entertainment has released it under the first title.

Crocodile combines the ‘teenagers in the woods being systematically decimated’ genre with the ‘giant wildlife on the rampage’ genre. If you hadn’t seen his earlier alligator film, you might think this was derivative of Blair Witch Project, whereas Blair Witch is really a reprise of the second half of Texas Chainsaw. But I can see where the Blair Witch might have helped green light this one, and Lake Placid might have had a hand in the decision as well. And if the ground it traverses feels mighty familiar, at least one can make a case that he’s cannibalizing his own work, not the work of others. With one glaring steal: the regurgitation at the end is straight from Anaconda.

The overlapping blathering of the actors almost drove me to hit the eject button, despite a great ‘moon’ by one of the actresses. Adolescents of both sexes, as depicted here, are a loud, obnoxious, unethical lot, and deserve whatever they get. I was always rooting for the Crocodile. My screening guests prevailed on me to wait for the monster to appear before curtailing the show, and they made the right decision, for the second half of the film has a few good thrills and amusing ideas.

The picture quality is good, particularly in the night scenes. But the sound mix is weak. Voices are too low and sound dull. A ‘making-of’ doc shows Hooper quietly at work on location. (A trailer is also included) He talks about his first feature – Eggshells – which went nowhere.

During the doc, one can easily see the name Flatdog on the clapboards, which indicates the original title of the film. With exploit-meisters behind this like Boaz Davidson, the film never had a chance of bearing that moniker, which might have leant it a quirky aura. It would have been too tough a title for the boys to sell. Relegated straight to DVD, with its slim quotient of memorable moments, Crocodile is really all the title it deserved.

PS – If you’re a Tobe Hooper completist, several of his other films are out on DVD, including The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (from MPI), Lifeforce (from MGM), and Salem’s Lot.

I thought Salem’s Lot was one of the better made-for-tv miniseries, though it was padded in its original, four hour cut. Later it played tv again, this time trimmed down to a three-hour timeslot including commercials. This form was perfect. Later it was released in an under two hour cut, presumably for foreign theatrical bookings. This cut was too short. I don’t know which cut is available on DVD, but I’m willing to bet that it’s one of the lesser two.

Lifeforce, the box claims, is fifteen minutes longer than it’s theatrical release. If so, I must have seen an uncut print back in the theaters. I can’t detect anything new. But it’s a fun film, with Mathilde May displaying her impossibly gorgeous body in a first act filled with gratuitous nudity, for which everyone I know was extremely grateful.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is simply one of the finest horror films ever made, and you should add that one to your collection without hesitation. If you are hesitating, let me add that the DVD comes with lots of extras, including a commentary track featuring Hooper, the DP, and Gunnar Hansen, who playedthe film’s lead psycho, Leatherface. There are also deleted scenes, a blooper reel, and trailers for the other films in the Chainsaw series.

Director: Tobe Hooper.

Mark McLaughlin,
Caitlin Martin.

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