It's a straight-to-video killer crocodile movie. I quite enjoyed it.
That's not to say that it's a classic, obviously. It's still a killer crocodile movie, with its fair share of stupidity. The water is still, but then our heroes jump into it and start surfing... on what? The crocodile is so badass that it can make a bridge explode. However if you're ready for all that, there's also plenty here that's much better than it might have been.
1. It's another schlocky American adventure movie shot in the Philippines! This is great. I like the Philippines. It's pretty, with monkeys and ancient temples. They also have LIVE SHARKS.
2. The characters are here to do something so stupid that it's brilliant. Kate Fischer and Matthew Borlenghi are documentary-makers who've come to shoot blood-surfing. You might be wondering what this entails. Firstly, you find some shark-infested waters. Secondly, you dump blood and guts into the water to attract them, while deliberately cutting your feet with knives. Thirdly, you go surfing, dude! Dax Miller and Joel West are our heroes. How many films will give you that, eh?
3. The director sometimes manages tension. It's Spielberg's Jaws trick, in which a character's trying to get out of the water before the monster gets them... and they succeed! For some reason, this is scarier than them getting killed. I'm still trying to work out why.
4. The special effects are mostly good. Anyone jeering at the effects is either unthinkingly auto-bashing or else unfamiliar with what these films looked like thirty years earlier. The CGI is largely okay. The crocodile generally looks fine, except in one scene where the filmmakers get a little cocky and keep the camera on their croc in close-in up, on dry land, in broad daylight, for a relatively long time. However even then, I thought it didn't look that bad. They've built a pretty good croc. The only poor special effects are the croc kills (unfortunately) and an obvious composite shot in the blood surfing.
5. A mad Ahab character (Duncan Regehr) so gnarled and scary that he manages to sell impossible scenes like the one where he deliberately steers his boat on to the reefs as a lure for the crocodile. That still seems ridiculous to me, but Regehr makes it work.
6. Joel West's not a bad actor either. (He's the surfer with the dyed blonde hair and dark beard.) He's finding interesting moments and things to play, plus he's a million times better than co-stars like Miller or Fischer. For what it's worth, both Regehr and West have also been on Star Trek.
7. A selfish scuzzball, Matthew Borlenghi. For a while I thought he was too bland to be a good villain, but that was before he agreed to trade Fischer's sexual affections to a would-be rapist. "I wouldn't call it cheating." Then when he later pushes her in the water... okay, yes, he's scum. "We survived! And better than that, we kicked ass!" His inevitable fate isn't juicy enough, though.
8. Thugs with guns appear with no explanation at one point.
9. Someone says "showtime" and I didn't want to kill them, because of the LIVE SHARKS.
10. The film's treatment of women is better than I'd expected of its genre. Of course it has gorgeous women and nudity, mostly from the lovely Maureen Larrazabal, but its female characters aren't merely screaming victims. On the contrary, they're the only people who aren't crazy or irredemable. Fischer also gets a would-be rapist to fight.
11. The claim of a 31-foot salt water crocodile is realistic! People do claim to have seen thirty-foot crocodiles. Even if these have later turned out to be only twenty foot long after all, that's still a lot of crocodile and it doesn't seem unreasonable to suppose that this film's clowns can't tell the difference between "twenty" and "thirty" either. Someone saying it doesn't make it so.
Even the performances aren't that bad. The good actors are fun, while the bad actors are superficially tolerable. Dax Miller isn't an actor at all, but he doesn't make you wince and he looks good in swimming trunks. Furthermore his character is paper-thin, so his inability to act is being quarantined away where it can't really hurt anything. Kate Fischer is far more damaging, surprisingly, despite being more competent. She's got work to do and she flunks it. She does nothing with her relationship with Borlenghi and never creates any texture or character development, thus making a non-sequitur of her eventual "it couldn't have happened to a nicer person". She looks good in tight tops. That's her contribution as an actress. Her character also looks ridiculous late in the movie when she gets pushed into crocodile-infested waters and doesn't try to climb out again, but instead starts filming. That was always going to be a tough sell, but Fischer should have tried harder, i.e. at all.
I liked this film. It's what it is, yes, but within those constraints it's a good laugh. When it's good, it's fun. When it's bad, it's also fun, or at the very least inoffensive. Thus it merely adds to the entertainment that, for instance, Taryn Reif can't do a sexy dance and that the movie begins with, "This is going to be better than Jaws!" Furthermore any and all character stupidity is explained by the fact that they came here to do blood surfing. They make jokes about it! "Lemmya, this is some of the best French toast I've ever had." "Silly, these are pancakes."
It's not just an exercise in ironic camp, though. I genuinely liked it. There's a tense scene with Fischer and LIVE SHARKS, for instance. Did I mention the LIVE SHARKS? Probably not the worst straight-to-video killer crocodile movie of 2000, thanks to Tobe Hooper's Crocodile... and that got a sequel.
Joel West (naked): "How old are you?"
Maureen Larrazabal (also naked): "I'm going to be fifteen next month."
"I'm nineteen, silly."