Friday, March 03, 2006

It Came from Netflix! DinoCroc

I watched DinoCroc about two nights ago, and it’s already fading from memory. I guess that about sums things up. If I’m grading on a scale, comparing the film to stuff from Nu Image and UFO, it was a three star movie. Not grading on a scale, it maybe earns two stars. Sadly, that still makes it better than most DTV monster flicks.

There’s a corporation lab doing extraordinarily advanced experiments with about two staff members and the most ridiculously ill-secured Genetically-Manipulated Whatzit Chamber I can remember right off the top of my head. The junior scientist is killed by said Whatzit, a cloned “DinoCroc,” a freshly discovered prehistoric beastie. The animal itself escapes, blah blah blah.

I actually enjoyed parts of DinoCroc, although many other aspects had me rolling my eyes. The special effects, all CGI stuff (sigh), are as bad as anything I can remember seeing since, hmm, Glass Trap or Beneath Loch Ness. OK, maybe not quite as bad as Glass Trap, but that leaves a lot of sucking room. There are definitely some scenes where a prop head or other body part would have definitely been better, but I guess they just don’t think that way anymore. Seriously, though, some of the effects work here is wincingly bad, even none of it goods very good.

At times the film surprised me by being a little hard nosed, in a good way. Horror movies are films (or rather, should be films) in which the effect of making mistakes is magnified. Nobody should be exempt from this rule, except through pure dumb luck, and that should be true for characters both good and bad.

At one point DinoCroc’s romantic leads make a mistake (and at this point they don’t even know they’re in a horror movie yet), and the results are refreshingly grim. However, later in the movie the script falls back to that tired old “It Depends on Whether The Character is Good or Bad” sort of plotting. The heroes act like idiots, and everything turns out OK. A villain acts like an idiot, and pays the price. That’s not how you write a good movie.

The Eee-vil Corporation Boss who stops at nothing to make a buck had me rolling my eyes, as always. I know a lot of people think I’m mostly annoyed by the lame anti-business politics, but the real problem is that this sort of thing is such a complete, fucking cliché. I mean, damn, how many frickin’ times do me have to see these completely stock characters rolled out?

Come on, people, damn, put a twist in there or something. How about introducing a company lawyer who immediately informs the authorities about what’s going on because he has a duty to do so as an officer of the court. What if the parent company is laying out enough money to do things right, but the person on the scene is embezzling funds, thus explaining why the security is so shoddy? Something? Anything? I mean, those ideas took me like five seconds to come up with.

Meanwhile, the heroine, an animal control officer who can’t bring herself to gas the animals in her charge, gave me gas. As I said, the film was pleasingly hard-edged as to consequences up to a point. Then at the end, when dogs are used to lure the DinoCroc into a trap, there’s a big retarded action sequence where she and her beau run around freeing the pooches just ahead of the ravenous beast. (Who is moving noticeably slower here than at any other point in the film.)

The DinoCroc by this time had killed at least a dozen people, and at that point, I’m sorry, but if you’re worried about some stray dogs to the point that you risk the lives of additional people (including your father!) to save them, then you’re just an idiot. Of course, the film doesn’t play it that way.

There are better aspects, though. The film doesn’t wear out its welcome (by that much, anyway; but still, it could have been ten minutes shorter—ah, for the return of the 70 or 80-minute B-movie). The photography is good, and the outdoor stuff in particularly makes it occasionally look like an actual film. Best of all, they spent some money on some actual actors. Not Joanna Pacula (the eee-vil capitalist), or Costas Mandylor*, so much, since they appear in a lot of junk like this, but Bruce “Hill Street Blues” Weitz and particularly the always dependable Charles Napier really lend the film a touch of professionalism.

[*I’m not even sure how this is possible, but while Costas Mandylor is the Poor Man’s Michael Paré, Michael Paré is at the same time the Poor Man’s Costas Mandylor. Science hasn’t explained this yet.]

DinoCroc was produced by Roger Corman, whose named is prominently displayed, and in isolated spots it does come close to recalling his salad days as a producer back in the ‘70s, when people like Joe Dante and Jack Hill and a zillion others made extremely cheap but often very good films for him. Indeed, this one often seems to go out of its way to recall Dante’s Piranha, although the comparison doesn’t work to its benefit. Still, for a rental, you could do a lot worse. Still, if the second half of the film had been as good as the first part--which really wouldn't have been that ambitious of a goal--they might have really had a neat little movie here.


At 1:24 PM, Blogger Marty McKee said...

Did Corman find a way to (again) recycle footage from his CARNOSAUR trilogy? You should see RAPTOR sometime, a movie that has no original action scenes whatsoever and is recycled from the CARNOSAUR movies. It's lazy even by sometimes-lazy director Jim Wynorski's standards. For viewers who like to play drinking games based on continuity errors, good luck.

At 1:32 PM, Blogger thanoseid said...

Hey, while you're on the subject of seafaring monsters, when are you going to review Blue Demon? I mean, a shark movie with a midget AND a scientist who can't pronounce Carcharodon carcharias? What more can you ask for?

At 1:49 PM, Blogger Ken Begg said...

I actually reviewed (I think--is that the one with Eric Roberts) that one, I think, as a Nugget. I hadn't seen any of hte Carnosaur movies, and I still recognized that the film was assembled nearly entirely from old footage. One actor, for instance, is 'killed' in a death scene from a movie that had to have been made at least ten years prior, and his looks had completely changed.

As for Blue Demon, damn, I've never even heard of that one. And sadly, Netflix *does* carry it, so I guess I'll have to take a look at it. (I am under a Killer Shark Movie geis, I'm afraid.) Gee, thanks, Thanoseid.

At 9:08 AM, Blogger Keith said...

One of the great benefits of the Sci-Fi Channel is that every Saturday afternoon, they have nothing better to do than play these movies in an endless procession.

Funny -- I was just having a conversation with a friend about who i would cast as the small-town sheriff in my film. I came up with Michael Pare, and my friend said, "But what about Costas Mandylor?" I am proud to be part of a community where these two guys are our first choices.

But who weeps for Wings Hauser?


Post a Comment

<< Home