Supergator (2007)

Supergator reviewReviwed by The Foywonder

Starring Brad Johnson, Kelly McGillis, Bianca Lawson, John Coulton, Mary Alexandra Stiefvater, Josh Kelly, Elizabeth Johnson, Holly Weber

Directed by Brian Clyde

Roger Corman had intended to produce a sequel to his 2004 Sci-Fi Channel original Dinocroc, but the higher-ups at Sci-Fi informed him that they weren’t particularly keen on sequels because sequels didn’t draw very good ratings for them. The network doesn’t like sequels and yet in the past year they’ve premiered House of the Dead 2, Lake Placid 2, a pair of Pumpkinhead sequels, two more Return of the Living Dead sequels, and later this year they’ll even be unveiling a sequel to Bats. Maybe what they meant is that they don’t like sequels to their own crappy original movies because they know they won’t be able to fool the audience twice? Okay, Mansquito 2 I would watch.

Roger Corman is a master at producing B-movies, certainly smarter than any of the people currently calling the shots at Sci-Fi, so he pretty much went ahead and produced Dinocroc 2 anyway; he just did so under the guise of Supergator. The “supergator” looks almost identical to the “dinocroc” too. The CGI creature design has been tweaked a little, given a more noticeably greenish hue, and where as the dinocroc walked around inexplicably on its hind legs, the supergator gallops around on all-fours like a mutant, fanged, feral version of the Flintstones’ pet, Dino. Neither version of the monster looks all that much like the second half of their namesakes, more prehistoric dinosaur than present day reptile. The Supergator script even dares to toss in a veiled reference to the events of the previous film for good measure. Sci-Fi be damned; Corman might as well have just called this one Dinocroc Goes Hawaiian.

In a shocking, fully original, never-before-seen Sci-Fi Channel original movie storyline, a scientific experiment in genetic engineering has gotten loose and gone on a killing spree. Yes, that was sarcasm. Want more? I’m no scientist but I’ve got to believe there are safer ways to study the effects of genetic evolution than to mix prehistoric alligator DNA with a modern alligator egg to breed a “supergator”. Dr. Taft (an almost unrecognizable Kelly McGillis, looking here like a dead ringer for Sharon Gless) disagrees with my common sense hypothesis, instead choosing to defy the laws of nature. Unfortunately, when you tamper with nature, nature often bites back. For example, when that 30-foot prehistoric “supergator” with the spiked tail and a voracious appetite for destruction that you genetically engineered grows to full size expectedly fast, becomes immune to tranquilizers, and gets loose in the vicinity of a scenic Hawaiian waterfall. No worry; just call in a professional alligator hunter with a shady past to assist you in dealing with the “man-eating turbo gator from hell” you created.

I still can’t get over seeing Kelly McGillis (Top Gun, The Accused) in this movie. I realize that time catches up with us all (unless you’ve got one hell of a plastic surgeon or a picture of Dorian Gray in your home like Dick Clark and Sandra Bullock) and many big screen movie stars eventually see their stardom fade, but has McGillis’ career really sunk to the point that she’s reduced to taking a thankless supporting role in a Sci-Fi Channel monster movie? It’s not even a significant part. To her credit, she gets through her limited screen time with her dignity intact, but it’s still a nothing of a role. I’d like to think she only agreed to this as means to get a free tropical vacation.

Supergator reviewNow that waterfall also happens to be in the neighboring vicinity of a long dormant volcano that’s suddenly showing possible signs of life. In comes Dr. Scott Kinney (all-purpose generic leading man Brad Johnson), a volcanologist trying to get back on that volcanic horse (so to speak) after a pair of his students were killed in a tragic accident at the last active volcano he went to research. Dr. Kinney will also prove to be surprisingly adept with a shotgun for a guy who studies volcanoes for a living.

Assisting him is one of his grad students, a young horndog who hits on every attractive female in sight (of which there are numerous, especially within the film’s first half) and is only on the trip to begin with because his rich daddy bought his way onto it. He views this trip as more a vacation than work. Despite his frat boy demeanor, his prowess for macking on the lovely ladies is lacking in both subtlety and charm. Or maybe that’s because of his frat boy demeanor? Either way this is one character so annoying he leaves you crossing your fingers that his ultimate fate will involve the jaws of a mutant alligator, or at the very least tripping and falling into a volcanic crater.

Dr. Kinney is also surprised by the arrival of Carla (Bianca Lawson, probably best remembered as doomed vampire slayer Kendra from the early seasons of “Buffy, the Vampire Slayer”), another former student currently working as a reporter looking to write a story about the psychology of volcanologists. That sounds like one seriously boring article. She ends up tagging along for the ride, though the inclusion of her character at all is perplexing. She never really contributes much of anything aside from running and screaming. She isn’t even the love interest for Dr. Kinney. I don’t know if its because they cast too young with role (Lawson looks to be more than 15 years Johnson’s junior) or what, but her character’s relationship with Dr. Kinney is totally platonic even though it feels like its being set up initially for a potential romance.

There’s even another pretty volcanologist accompanying the group, one who looks more mature than Lawson and contributes more to the scientific mumbo jumbo aspect of the volcanic subplot, and even she isn’t used in the coveted love interest slot.

I know it probably sounds odd for me to be complaining about the lack of a pointless romantic subplot but these two female characters could have been totally excluded from the script altogether and it really wouldn’t have had any real impact on the outcome since neither exist for the typical purpose – giving the male lead someone to kiss.

In a movie brimming with bad acting and atrocious dialogue, I must say that Bianca Lawson seemed to be gunning for a Razzie Award with her nothing-coming-out-of-my-mouth-sounds-the-slightest-bit-genuine performance. Too bad (or lucky) for her made-for-TV movies don’t qualify for the honor.

Supergator reviewOther potential gator bait includes bikini models on a photoshoot with their wildly overacting photographer sporting a bad fake accent who constantly yells at them to pose in inane fashion, a trio of slacker college dudes scouring the Hawaiian jungle to acquire some sort of natural remedy for hangovers one of them heard about with plans to make millions marketing, and a pair of vacationing beauties looking for a little out of the ordinary excitement. These characters and their blood-soaked fates pretty much dominate the first half of Supergator, while the primary set of character spend most of the time boating down the waterways in search of either mutant reptiles or volcanic research.

One thing that becomes quickly apparent is that every character in the movie under the age of 30 seems to suffer from either arrested development or some form of brain damage. In the world of Supergator, if you don’t have wrinkles on your face or bags under your eyes then you’re a world class numbskull.

Another thing that also becomes abundantly clear and fast is that the makers of Supergator had no inclination to try and bring anything new to the table. Everything prior to the inspired chaos of the finale is serviceable at best and the story and characters are all little more than padding to fill time between death scenes. The volcano stuff proves to be a red herring designed to get Dr. Kinney and company to intersect with Dr. Taft and her gator hunter so that they could join forces. Characters are uniformly shallow; backstories are paid lip service to without ever being built upon. The alligator hunter’s checkered past and Dr. Kinney still being haunted by the deaths of his previous students are introduced and forgotten about. Minor characters that exist solely to get mauled to death display more personality than the main characters. The film falls into a serious lull midway in when it’s finally forced to focus solely on the primary dullards and remains mired in that funk until the admittedly fun finale.

The “supergator” just runs (and swims) amok, randomly killing people for the heck of it. It doesn’t even seem to be eating anyone – just actively stalking people to chomp to death. It’s all CGI of varying quality outside of the frenzily edited extreme close-ups of prosthetic alligator jaws chewing on victims’ body parts that generally go on long past any rhyme or reason. Supergator, both the creature and the movie, acts out in pretty routine fashion until the climax where it goes berserk at a tourist trap, leading up to the creatively goofball means by which it’s dispatched. A pity the rest of the movie was as fun as the finale.

One final thing I have to comment on is a seriously annoying trend I’ve begun noticing with Sci-Fi’s original movies. Does no one know how to end a damn movie anymore? The ways these films keep wrapping up of late have grown increasingly “blah”. The final seconds of a movie, especially a corny monster movie, should not involve the film’s main characters displaying an attitude of, “Well, that’s enough of that. I’m out of here.” Yet that’s essentially how Sci-Fi Channel original movies seem to keep ending these days. You don’t have to precede the fade out to the closing credits with an improbable plot twist or a set-up for a sequel or some sort of funny one-liner or whatever … But, good grief, do something more creative than merely having the main characters engage in some mundane dialogue and then either drive away or simply walk off the screen. A couple other times it’s looked like the camera decided to wonder off on its own after the characters stopped talking, choosing to pan over and focus on something at random in a manner that makes you think something is about to happen, and then it just fades to black. In this case, lethargic dialogue spoken by seemingly unaffected characters is followed up with those individuals driving off, which is then followed by random stock footage of an actual Hawaiian volcano spewing lava. Was that supposed to mean the volcano in the movie erupted after all or was it just stock footage of a lava flow thrown in for the hell of it because nobody could come up with anything better to do? I’ve seen loads of bad movies that at the very least had good endings. Why has this suddenly become so hard for Sci-Fi Channel filmmakers? Filmmaking 101: Leave the audience wanting more.

2 out of 5

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