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Monday, October 7, 2019

Killer Crocodile 2 (1990)


Anthony Crenna (Kevin Jones), Debra Karr (Liza Post), Ennio Girolami (Joe)

Directed by Giannetto De Rossi

The Short Version: Shot back-to-back with KC1, the sequel features the same croc model, but this time the overzealous reptile apparently suffers from Polyphagia considering the dozens of victims it consumes in one sitting (floating?). Some of the cast returns like Crenna and Girolami (and in a cameo, Pilar the snake!). In addition to being a good actress, Debra Karr is mesmerizingly gorgeous. Just like it could've used more well-photographed scenes of the title killer critter, so could it have used more of Karr's fantastic form. The gore, which wasn't very prominent the first time around, is almost non-existent for the second. Still, there's a few good set-pieces and some surprising chemistry between the two main leads. Giannetto De Rossi's direction is compromised by a barely-there-budget which is unfortunate considering he's famous for his makeup effects and isn't afforded the time or money to showcase them. Its monetary deficiencies aside, KILLER CROCODILE 2 has some bite and is a fun ride in the swamp.

After the first Killer Crocodile and its nest was destroyed, another gigantic reptile hatches from a surviving egg and proceeds to feed on the locals. Meanwhile, an enterprising crime boss decides to turn the swamps and surrounding beaches into a resort after reporting that all toxic waste contaminating the area has been removed. However, several barrels are knowingly unaccounted for. Liza, an intrepid, and feisty reporter is sent to the area to find information on the missing barrels believed to still be in the area. When she disappears after the crocodile attacks her boat, Kevin Jones returns to the scene of the crime to find her while the giant crocodile finds him.

In an attempt to save money on his two crocodile movies, penny-pinching producer Fabrizio De Angelis decided to step aside as director and hand it over to makeup artist and croc creator Giannetto De Rossi. This was the famous makeup master's second tour in the director's chair (after 1989s CY WARRIOR), and his last. While he views both gigs as "shitty movies", KC2 isn't that bad; and is generally a better movie than some of its Euro-made brethren.

Unlike the first KILLER CROCODILE, there's actually a story this time around. De Rossi has a much better script (by De Angelis, De Rossi, and Sacchetti) to work with; only it's too ambitious for the obviously small amount of money the filmmakers had at their disposal. Also different from before, there's a clear attempt at aping JAWS (1975) by way of PIRANHA (1978) with a businessman attempting to make Santo Domingo a tourist attraction with a resort and other holiday spots. In contrast to Murray Hamilton's and Dick Miller's respective characters, KC2's Mr. Baxter is something of a gangster. Other than a few potential vacationing victims at the end, the budget doesn't allow for a slew of quirky characters intended as crocodile menu items.

Despite even worse critical notices, KC2 is a better movie than its predecessor in some ways; and a lesser effort in others. Sadly, the latter is where it matters the most; that being the crocodile attacks. However, as silly as the film is, it excels with some unexpectedly good exposition. 

We'll start with the meat and potatoes first...

The crocodile model used is the same one from the first movie and gets some assist by cleverly inserted KC1 stock shots. Still, there's quite a lot of new croc footage although much of it isn't up to the low budget ingenuity displayed in the first picture. Stopping well short of calling the scenes sloppy, it's clear there was even less time and money to work with. Even so, De Rossi and his crew find a few new ways to shoot their reptilian antagonist; the most striking of these may have been inspired by Jeannot Szwarc's novel approach of shooting on the back of the shark for JAWS 2 (1978). 

Elsewhere, the filmmakers really go overboard by having the crocodile literally raise itself out of the water as if it's standing on two legs. This may have been inspired by the vigorous great white shark lifting itself out of the water for an undoubtedly dumb, if spectacularly creative death scene in the awful JAWS: THE REVENGE (1987). At least De Rossi didn't go full blown absurdity like Sompote Sands' execrable Thai production CROCODILE from 1979 by having his giant lizard literally leaping over boats! 

KILLER CROCODILE 2 does reach maximum comical levels; particularly when the monster is consuming a dozen people at a time. The croc devours so many people over the course of the film's 90 minutes, it's a shame there's not at least one scene where our heroes stumble upon a massive mound of steaming crocodile caca.

While the body count is higher than the first movie, this doesn't equate to better attack scenes. For some of them, it would appear time was as limited as the budget. The aforementioned use of a handful of stock shots from part 1 masks the monetary limitations while some of the more flaccid sequences use no inserts at all. For example, during the second attack scene on two boat-fulls of Christian children and nuns, the crocodile is filmed from the back "swallowing" some of its victims. On screen it looks like a croc-carpet is being laid over top of an extra splashing in the water.

The most impressive sequence of the scant few that are is a night-time attack on a shanty housing three criminals working for Baxter and his crime syndicate. The monster reptile chases one of them through the fog-enshrouded swamp before bursting through the hut, snacking on the victims inside, then pulling the shack into the river where it eventually makes a nest out of it. The sequence is well shot and lit, being the most atmospheric scene in a film where nearly all the attacks occur in broad daylight.

The finale is well staged too, if unintentionally humorous. In its favor, the script comes up with a new approach to the ole 'blow up the monster' routine of all your finer creature features. In it, the protagonists confront the beast just as it's about to make another meal of four vacationers. Kevin and Liza must convince the rapacious reptile to consume specially prepared sticks of dynamite; only this requires some close-quarters coercion. Kevin somehow avoids being eaten and ends up riding the back of the beast. Diving under the water and then hoisting itself out like an untamed horse trying to throw its rider, Kevin hangs on for dear life long enough to feed the crocodile a hot snack. 

Slow-motion shots of a toy or hand-puppet crocodile with an action figure attached to it being splashed in a tub of water are silly; but only add to the inventiveness of the filmmakers that dared do such a thing on a frayed, shoestring budget. Incidentally, the aforementioned travesty, JAWS: THE REVENGE (1987), featured a new ending for its international version that, for whatever reason, removed the show-stopping mast spearing of the shark--replacing it with a toy boat being smashed in a bathtub. So KC2's shortcomings don't seem so bad when big budget Hollywood product resorted to household special effects of their own.

As for the cast, it's limited to just three main performers and several local actors in minor roles. Ironically, it's the human element that keeps the sequel above water.

Anthony Crenna (son of Richard) returns as Kevin, the ecologist who encountered the first giant croc. He is given plenty of room to play the hero that he seldom got to indulge in the first picture. Hired to work with the spunky Liza, upon his arrival in the Caribbean he discovers she's vanished; so he seeks out his hunter friend, Joe, living in a high-end hut out in the jungle. Once more played by Ennio Girolami (again billed as Thomas Moore), he isn't in the movie all that long. Still, he and Crenna formulate a better camaraderie than last time; feeling like a father and son dynamic. Joe's exit from the movie should've been more spectacular than it is. Instead, it feels as rushed as everything else. It's more evidence the filmmakers were scrimping to put this sequel together.

With Joe out of the picture that leaves Crenna (who doesn't show up till the 40 minute mark) and Debra Karr to carry the movie when the monster isn't chowing down on the cast. Surprisingly, and as mentioned above, these are the portions that surpass the minuscule human interaction of the first movie. There's definitely chemistry between Crenna and Karr--as both come off as a believable couple. The scenes with them feel genuine and engaging in a playful sort of way; there's even some light comedic moments. You just don't get that kind of exposition in movies like this so it's unusual to see it here.

KC2's main attraction is its title critter, but Debra Karr gives the scaly reptile a run for its money. An impressive creation in her own right, Karr is a stunningly beautiful woman. Amazingly, her role is the most rich in character and expressiveness; easily one of the best, perkiest characters written for an Italian exploitation movie. She's actually on-screen more than Crenna is. Apart from possessing a gifted body, Karr is a fine actress. Unfortunately, she only acted in a few pictures before calling it quits. It's a shame she didn't pursue more work in the industry whether here or abroad.

Noticeably hampered by budgetary constraints, KILLER CROCODILE 2 is technically poor, but the struggle to create a palatable 90 minute diversion is evident throughout. With that said, it succeeds in more ways than it fails. It is nonetheless a worthy sequel that improves on De Angelis's prior picture; even if it suffers in the areas of its major selling point. Had both films been engaging on all fronts, the KILLER CROCODILE series wouldn't be the obscurities they are; and particularly the second picture, which is scarcely discussed at all. KILLER CROCODILE 2 is indicative of movie producers wanting to make a lot of money by expending little effort--leaving filmmakers to utilize other means to make an entertaining product. These two movies certainly succeed in that way... as entertainment.

This review is representative of the Severin 2 disc blu-ray. Specs and extras: limited edition to 4,000 copies; slipcover featuring original artwork for both movies; 1080p HD 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen; feature-length documentary on the career of Giannetto De Rossi; deleted scenes; trailer; English/Italian audio; closed captioning; running time: 01:26:46

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