There simply cannot be enough animal attack movies, as far as I’m concerned. They’re just something I could watch forever, regardless of how bad they are. So when I found out about this one, by the director of Wolf Creek [which I have heard several good things about], it went right to the top of my list. I could certainly wait a little longer to see The Fast & The Furious: Tokyo Drift, don’t you think? Maybe even a lifetime.
So we open with a water buffalo, or some other large animal that I am unable to identify. It goes down by the water, sniffs around in a worried way, then, when its sure the coast is clear—it gets eaten. It’s pretty good as far as cows-getting-eaten scenes go, and I thought it was kind of amusing that the required “opening victim” scene here was filled out by a water buffalo instead of a girl in a bikini. But as we’ll see, this film is on a mission to defy our expectations.
So this yuppie travel writer from Chicago is stranded in this small Australian town without his baggage. He goes into this bar where a hot bearded biker is relaxing [why couldn’t HE have been a main character?] and is appalled by newspaper clippings of crocodile attacks on people in the area. He complains that the cell service in the area sucks, and hearing this, the proprietor of the place puts a fly in his coffee.
So since he has a few hours to kill, he goes on a canal and crocodile-viewing cruise run by Radha Mitchell as Kate. We also have quickie intros to all of the characters on the cruise, like in a disaster film, and the FORM in which it’s presented in tells you what is going to happen: since we have these intros, surely the boat is going to become stranded, and we’ll watch this small group be picked off one by one. Among the cruise members are a married yuppie couple with a whiny, uber-neurotic and narcissistic wife. She asks the Australian woman in front of her to stop smoking because “it’s kind of wafting.” The smoking woman then goes to sit by Kate, and gets to deliver exposition when she asks how high crocodiles can leap, then says “So it could come in the boat?” There’s another line of important exposition as we hear that Crocodiles maintain a little den where they take their still-alive victims for snacking on later. Then Kate’s ex-boyfriend Neil, a local redneck, comes by and stops the tour and creates a public scene. He’s there long enough to set his character, then gone.
They continue on. The movie features some stunning travel footage of Australia’s unearthly landscapes that also serve to let us know how remote our tourists are going. One in particular displayed how the canyon they’re in is just a big crevice on what is otherwise miles of flat land. Also in here you have to start thinking “Christ, how long is this tour?” because it seems to go on all day. Just as they’re turning around, the yuppie husband sees a flare, and alerts Kate. They are required to go check it out, although all the tourists protest that this will totally mess with their schedules. Personally, I don’t see why Kate had to go herself if she called it in to rescue authorities, but we’ll see that the whole movie is full of people showing a lot more concern for their fellow humans than I think is strictly called for. I guess I’m a cold-hearted bastard! You see, this movie made me come face-to-face with that fact.
So they continue way upriver, and finally find a sunken boat. Then, quite suddenly, the crocodile hits the boat, starting it to sinking. Kate spies a place they can beach the boat and get off, and she guns it. Unfortunately, the place they end up turns out to be and island in the river [although the film is pretty clumsy about making this clear]. Furthermore, we soon learn that this is a tidal river, and soon the tide will rise and the island will be underwater. One other thing—they have no radio. So, life sucks, eh?
Things continue as one might expect, although this film goes out of its way to shake up the expected clichés of such films. People get attacked at unexpected times [think Deep Blue Sea] and in unusual ways—one person is standing by the water and when they look again, simply isn’t there anymore.
SPOILERS > > >
So here’s a big spoiler: Kate gets attacked, badly, while trying to swim across to the other edge. Pete, who has been developing the expected romantic connection with her, was charged with caring for her dog. When he gets to the land side, he starts following the dog way, WAY into the jungle [the movie has quite a disparity between the environment we see in the long shots versus what the characters on the ground encounter]. Anyway, so it seems like Kate is long dead, and Pete is running way, WAY into the jungle after the dog, and I’m like: Leave it! It’ll be a crunchy snack for the croc. But no, he follows it INTO A CAVE! Dude, let it die! This is where I was thinking “Boy, I guess I’m a lot more callous than most people,” because I wouldn’t give that thing a second thought. So Pete gets way deep in this cave, where the dog is sitting faithfully by Kate’s corpse. Aww, isn’t that just the sweetest thing. And now the crocodile comes home, and Pete is going to die because the faithful doggie wants to sit by its master’s corpse. Sentimentality kills, folks.
So Pete has a chance to look at Kate and—guess what?—she’s still alive! She has multiple, deep lacerations, and is barely making slight wheezing sounds, so again, to me, she might as well be a cold, dead rock. And I think the movie makes her look a little more like a total goner than it intended. Anyway, Pete is dragging her here, dragging her there, trying to get her out, to the point where it became hilarious to me. Yes, I’m a terrible, selfish person, but the movie also really made it seem like she’s a goner.
So Pete gets a big log and it looks like he’s going to do the ol’ bear-killing trick where you let it attack you, and in doing so, impale itself. He holds the trunk out, and the croc snatches it’s end and breaks it in half! I thought this was funny, but maybe it wasn’t intended that way, because [I said spoilers] Pete ends up killing the beast with the ol’ bear-killing trick. Now, we have heard repeatedly that the reason the croc is so miffed that they’re there is that they are in its territory… I tell you this, because the way its death is presented here struck me as very sexual. Pete sits against a big trunk with the broken pole sticking out between his legs like, well, like a big ol’ wang [only he might want to rethink that, as it’s poised to crush the jewels when the croc strikes. Anyway, see below]. So he’s holding his big thingy out and tempting the croc with it, which lunges on him and thus impales itself. It also has its mouth open around the trunk [another large phallic pole] and writhes around, trying to close its mouth, but can’t, because it’s just SO big and hard! So it seems that it comes down to these male symbols in this battle over which male controls this territory. Anyway, thing is dead, and guess what? Apparently Kate make a near-recovery! Sure shows me, I suppose. Nah, I still would have left her.
< < < SPOILERS END
It was pretty good, it did what it was supposed to do and found new twists and surprises to deliver along the way. So if you need a Jaws-like animal-attack movie and you’ve already seen Jaws too many times, this will fill your evening quite well. Thing is, this movie once again reminds us all that Jaws got there first, and Jaws did it best. This movie can only react against Jaws, while at the same time filling out the same basic template, and although it’s fun, it’ll never be more than a footnote at the end of a page on Jaws.
I did appreciate the drive to entertain and to shake up the expected order of victims and shocks, and I liked how the crocodile stayed believably animal from the beginning to the end [any talk of it being a “Rogue” or any explanation of its unusual size are left off]. There was a little basic confusion in certain key points—like when it took a few minutes to realize that they’re on an island or who is alive after their ferocious attack, but ultimately it all kind of works pretty well. Still… ho-hum. Another Jaws-style movie. La de da.
If you want a Jaws-style movie…