Dinocroc (2004)

Reviewed by The Foywonder

Starring Matt Borlenghi, Jane Longenecker, Costas Mandylor, Charles Napier, Bruce Weitz, and Joanna Pacula

Directed By Kevin O’Neill

2004 marked Roger Corman’s 50th year in the movie making business. In those 50 years and 300+ movies he has either directed or produced, Mr. Corman has given us some true b-movie classics. He’s also given us more than his fair amount of cinematic crappola. While Dinocroc certainly isn’t the former, it isn’t the latter either, although it sure did try to be at times.

Scientists at the Gereco (pronounced “Jericho”) corporation have discovered some sort of accelerated growth hormone in the fossils of the prehistoric Supercroc. In order to harvest this hormone they give the long extinct Supercroc the Jurassic Park treatment, although it’s never really explained what they plan to do with this hormone or why the Dinocroc has been turned into a biped. A pint sized Dinocroc kills a Gereco employee, escapes the facility, and takes up refuge in nearby Grants Lake. The beast quickly grows to full size by snacking on the local wildlife before moving on to unlucky bastards in the wrong place at the wrong time. Gereco reacts by bringing in an Australian crocodile hunter to kill the beast even while they seek to cover up the creature’s existence and their involvement in its creation. The pretty town dogcatcher, her hunky single parent and metal art sculpting boyfriend, her gruff town sheriff father, and a Gereco scientist join up with the croc hunter to kill the rampaging creature.

If Costas Mandylor’s Aussie croc hunter character had been left out of the script it really wouldn’t have made much of a difference. He spends more time hanging out in the local bar and flirting with the pretty dogcatcher than he does actually trying to kill the Dinocroc, which is the sole purpose of his existence. He’s haunted by nightmares of his young son being killed by a croc years earlier but that subplot never amounts to anything other than providing a flashback scene. Even the plan that is devised in the end to kill the Dinocroc is someone else’s idea.

Joanna Pacula is also wasted as the resident corporate weasel. She has maybe 10 minutes of screen time and issuing denials about the company’s knowledge of the monster is pretty much the extent of her villainy. It’s like making a movie about Enron and focusing on their public relations spokesperson as the symbol of corporate corruption. At least her presence in the movie helped give me an unintended laugh during the closing credits when “Ms. Pacula’s Blue Jeans Provided By Blue Cult Jeans” scrolled by. I have no idea why I found that funny but I think it might have been because I never noticed that she was even wearing blue jeans, especially since she’s filmed in close-up or from the waist up for much of her screen time. They say that the best acting is when you don’t notice the person is acting so I guess you could say the best blue jeans are the ones you don’t notice someone is wearing. Those must have been some damn fine jeans!

What can I say about the Dinocroc itself other than to say I think it’s a pretty spiffy looking monster? At times it is reminiscent of the abomination that was the Tristar Godzilla, but the Dinocroc is actually a much more fearsome looking beast what with teeth outside of and on top of its mouth and this constant mad dog gleam in its eyes. Sadly, the quality of the CGI is all over the map. Some is actually on par with or better than that found in some movies with astronomically higher budgets like say The Mummy Returns and I suspect Dinocroc’s budget was probably only slightly more than the amount spent on Brendan Fraser’s hair plugs for that film. But when the CGI is bad, it’s about as phony looking as CGI can get, even a bit blurry at times, which is simply unacceptable. Would it really have cost more to construct a prop Dinocroc for certain scenes? Is that really more expensive than bad CGI or do producers nowadays just insist on digitizing everything?

I strongly suspect the low budget impacted not only the uneven quality of the computer effects but also prevented a couple of crucial scenes from being filmed the way they should have. For example, the monster slaughters a posse of cops hunting it. We only get to see the aftermath. Remember when the monster in The Relic slaughtered the SWAT guys? We watch rampaging monster movies for scenes like that. When we don’t get it you can’t help but feel a bit cheated.

Another scene that drove me nuts was, in a moment of monumental stupidity, the two lead characters intentionally sabotage a plan to capture the Dinocroc because god forbid a few dogs from the local animal shelter get used a bait. Watching this sequence reminded me of a story Sam Raimi told about the making of Darkman. There was a cat shown in Darkman’s warehouse lab a few times, which he blows up later in the movie to kill several of the bad guys. One of the producers kept hounding Raimi to include a shot of the cat running out of the building because he was convinced the audience would hate it if they thought he killed off the cat. Raimi refused to break up the flow of the film by adding this pointless shot because as he argued, why would the audience give a crap about a stray cat dying after the hero has already killed half a dozen people? That’s what I kept thinking about while they were rescuing these dogs. Who cares if a half dozen stray animals are sacrificed as bait in a trap designed to kill a monster that has already murdered about a dozen innocent people? Somebody involved with the production of this movie had to be a card-carrying member of PETA.

The finale itself also bugged the hell out of me. The way the Dinocroc is done in requires one of those perfectly timed amazing coincidences I’ve grown to hate in movies. And the final shot of the film feels tacked on in order to tease a sequel even though what happens in this film moment makes absolutely no sense.

Dinocroc definitely scores points in my book for making me do something I haven’t done in a long time – make me utter “Holy @$%#!” aloud in my living room. The movie has one of the best kills I’ve seen in a monster movie in quite awhile and it happens to a character that you don’t think is going to get killed, especially in such a brutal fashion. If you’ve seen the movie on the Sci-Fi Channel then you have not seen this kill. The wonderful censors over at Sci-Fi decided that seeing a kid getting his head bit off by a monster crocodile was just too much so they completely did away with the scene, leaving the audience unaware that the kid has even been killed until later in the movie.

With any luck, one day we will get an actual DVD release of the uncut Dinocroc and not be forced to rely on that network’s edited version that’s overloaded with intrusive commercial breaks that stifle the breezy pacing of the flick.

With one more rewrite and a little more budget, I really do think Dinocroc could have been a great old-fashioned monster movie. It will just have to settle for being a fun guilty pleasure and there’s nothing wrong with that. Despite the many frustrations the film provides, Dinocroc has a likeability factor. There are far worse ways to spend 85 minutes than watching Dinocroc. I should know. I usually end up reviewing them for you.

And kudos to whomever came up with the idea to use a score that sounds more appropriate to an Omen movie than a rampaging reptile creature feature. It certainly enhances the cheese quotient considerably.

2 out of 5

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