Written by: Fabrizio De Angelis, Giannetto De Rossi, Dardano Sacchetti
Directed by: Giannetto De Rossi
Starring: Richard Anthony Crenna, Debra Karr, and Ennio Girolami
Reviewed by: Brett Gallman (@brettgallman)
"There's another one, Joe. Another son of a bitch."
Killer Crocodile was one of my favorite discoveries in recent memory, thanks in no small part that it felt like it was made for me. A 15-year-later Jaws rip-off from the wild west days of the Italian film industry’s later years (when any notion of pretense was thoroughly shredded) is certainly a newsletter to which I would like to subscribe. Lucky for me, there’s more where that came from since the same cast and crew produced a sequel alongside the original, continuing the exploits of Kevin (Anthony Crenna), everyone’s favorite croc-hunting bro. Unfortunately, though, Killer Crocodile II reminds us that it’s hard to harness lightning in a bottle twice: despite having most of its key players intact, the sequel feels like an afterthought. After stuffing so much zany nonsense into the original, it almost feels like they simply ran out of gas the second time around, leaving us with a dull retread that struggles to find a reason to exist beyond contractual obligation.
Because everyone involved clearly recognizes there may be no topping the original film’s unhinged climax, we open there, with Kevin obliterating the original crocodile with a boat propeller. The scene quickly shifts to some later date, where another, practically identical crocodile continues to terrorize the swamplands. Likewise, the nefarious corporation that’s been dumping toxic waste is still up to no good, so investigative journalist Liza (Debra Karr) is dispatched to expose the corruption. Her supervisor knows she’ll need protection from both the elements and the corporate goons who will stop at nothing to silence her, so he sends Kevin in as a bodyguard and a guide.
The general thrust of Killer Crocodile II seems sound enough since it’s essentially a riff on the globe-trotting Emmanuelle films that sent its title character on outlandish missions. Kerr is even a solid stand-in for the various Emmanuelle actresses, sporting both the requisite sultriness and toughness required for such a role. The film introduces her in a hostile workplace, where her jealous co-workers give her hell and insinuate that the boss just keeps her around for unseemly reasons, seemingly trading out the first film’s musings on masculinity for observations on sexism and misogyny. But when Liza triumphantly flips off her catty co-workers en route to her new assignment, any notion that the film might take this as a subject (even in the dopiest of ways) goes with her. Killer Crocodile II is more than content to simply be unrepentant trash with even fewer pretenses than its predecessor. That was a movie that knew exactly what it needed to be, and, credit is due to this one, too: it’s not exactly trying to defy the expectations set by a title like Killer Crocodile II.
The real trouble here is that effects master Giannetto De Rossi just doesn’t pull it off with the same aplomb in the director’s chair. While it’s admirable that the screenplay doesn’t simply recycle the same storyline and tries to organically build off of the original film, it struggles to find a groove. Of course you watch something titled Killer Crocodile for obvious reasons, but it offers so much more: blatant Jaws deja vu, weirdly magnetic camaraderie, scenery-chewing villains, confounding dialogue exchanges, and even plenty of carnage not involving its titular beast. It’s a sterling example of how this era’s Italo-schlock could inject a tired genre with a gonzo energy by sheer force of will, which is just a fancy way of saying the first film never, ever bores the audience. The same can’t be said for the sequel, which struggles to find a pulse as its characters languidly trudge through the motions of a plot so threadbare that the film leans on flashbacks to the original. Silent Night, Deadly Night 2 it ain’t, but it never bodes well when a film feels compelled to remind you of a superior predecessor since it seemingly doesn’t trust its own material.
I suppose there’s good reason for that. Killer Crocodile II has its moments, but they’re scattered like oases in an arid desert. A quite frankly galling sequence sees the best attacking and devouring small children as a nun watches on helplessly, while another scene finds it demolishing an entire hut and swallowing the inhabitants whole. Joe (Ennio Girolami), the first film’s Quint surrogate briefly wanders in to punch up the proceedings, and there’s a hilarious seduction scene between Liza and Kevin that relies on the former’s knowledge of how body chemistry works in stressful situations. The climax—which once again puts children in peril, and you know the film isn’t fucking around in this regard—also cooks, especially since De Rossi and company do come up with a proper (if not predictable) way to dispatch the creature again. It’s just too bad all of this stuff feels like the scraps of ideas that couldn’t be incorporated the first time around, so they shoe-stringed together an entirely new movie to show them off. I suppose that’s fair because if I had De Rossi’s effects at my disposal, I’d want to empty the clip too, even if it meant tapping him to direct an obligatory sequel.
Killer Crocodile II is proof that nothing is a sure thing. Yes, it has many of the same parts in place, including that immaculately realized giant crocodile, but it doesn’t pulse with the same manic, devil-may-care energy. Lacking both a gory panache and a colorful assortment of characters (even the mustache-twirling villains in this one operate at the margins and rarely interact with the heroes), it commits the cardinal sin for this particular kind of sequel by not even trying to top the original’s mayhem. Something called Killer Crocodile II simply requires more: a bigger body count, overflowing gore, wilder characters, non-stop explosions, you name it. Instead, it feels all too routine, which is the last thing I expected from it, especially since I waited an entire year to properly hype myself for it. Let that be a lesson to me when it comes to playing this particular roulette wheel: sometimes, you get Killer Crocodile, sometimes you get Killer Crocodile II. Anybody who played this game with Zombie 4 and Zombie 5 knows what I’m talking about.
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