Right now, you’re probably wondering what “Crocsploitation” is. First off, it has nothing to do with those foam clogs that everyone loves to hate. Rather, Crocsploitation is a niche of creature feature horror where crocodilians — namely alligators and crocodiles — wreak havoc. These scaly, cold-blooded predators have enjoyed the cinematic spotlight as far back as 1959’s The Alligator People. However, they didn’t get their time to shine until the heyday of “nature’s revenge” films from the 1970s and onward. They have especially basked in the straight-to-video section of horror, too.
Now before we go any further, there’s an important matter to discuss. It’s common for people to interchangeably refer to alligators as crocodiles and vice versa. But they’re surprisingly different. For one thing, crocs and gators cannot breed. These two genera diverged from a common ancestor almost 100 million years ago. They don’t look that different from their ancient relatives, which is why they’re referred to as “living fossils.” So, not only does the Alligatoridae family house two extant species — the American alligator and the Chinese alligator — it also includes the three caimans from Central and South America. As for the Crocodylidae family, there are at least fifteen living species (E.g., the saltwater crocodile). What about the narrow-snouted, fish-eating gharial? They’re in their own category except for the false gharial, who is considered a crocodile. Confused? How do you suppose crocodilians feel?
So in honor of these armored and death-rollin’ reptiles who lurk in your swamps, pools, and rivers, here are ten Crocsploitative horrors to snap your jaws at.
10. Killer Crocodile (1989)
When a tropical delta is contaminated with toxic waste, a crocodile is transformed into a famished mutant. Now, environmentalists must stop the monster before it consumes everyone in sight!
This Italian schlock-fest was shot back to back with its 1990 sequel Killer Crocodile 2. The most notable thing about Killer Crocodile is the film’s impressively sized namesake. It moves at a snail’s pace and lacks any sort of natural movement, but that behemoth sure does chow down like there’s no tomorrow.
9. The Hatching (2016)
Upon returning to his village after his father’s passing, a man discovers crocodiles hiding in the local waters.
This dry horror-comedy was probably inspired by all those sightings of a crocodile in the English Channel back in 2010. Of course, there was no croc — only a floating log. Even so, The Hatching is unique because of its location of England. There are indeed crocodiles in the movie, but don’t expect them to be running amok all the time. Most of the story revolves around the protagonist uncovering some shady going-ons in his hometown.
8. Dark Age (1987)
A ranger hunting down a dangerous saltwater crocodile must contend with the local indigenous people. They believe they have a spiritual connection with the animal, and they don’t want to see it harmed.
Dark Age is not the most fast-paced movie here, but it has some beautiful cinematography as well as an unconventional plot that makes it memorable. Despite the film being Australian in origin, it apparently never screened in theaters there. Yet in 2009, Quentin Tarantino hosted a retrospective showing in Sydney.
7. Crocodile (2000)
When a group of college students parties it up on a lake boat, they encounter a territorial mother crocodile defending her nest. The teens then make a mistake of stealing one egg, which leads to an all-terrain chase until the mama croc gets her baby back.
Tobe Hooper‘s Eaten Alive features an alligator, but the beast wasn’t the focus of the 1977 film. And while Crocodile isn’t considered a return to form for Hooper by any stretch of the imagination, it ends up being a lot of fun. It’s an uproarious slasher with a terribly rendered CGI crocodile as the assailant. If you’re feeling brave, check out the sequel Crocodile 2: Death Swamp.
6. The Pool (2018)
After an on-location photo shoot, an art director gets stuck in an emptied-out, six-meter deep pool with his injured girlfriend. To worsen matters, an escaped crocodile has found its way in.
Although it sounds like a mashup of 47 Meters Down and 12 Feet Deep, The Pool is different enough to keep you glued to your seats. The movie offers up a likable hero who’s thrown into a very bad and unusual situation. The idea sounds ridiculous — and it is — but the well-paced suspense and realistic croc behavior makes this Thai import worth hunting down.
5. Primeval (2007)
When an American is killed by an infamous, man-eating Nile crocodile in Burundi, reporters visit the country in hopes of filming the animal’s capture.
The original trailer misled a lot of people who were expecting a serial killer thriller. What they got instead was an exaggeration of a real-life monster. In fact, Primeval is loosely based on Gustave, a twenty-foot crocodile who is said to have killed up to three hundred people. Gustave is reclusive, and he was last spotted in 2015. As for Primeval, the film makes for a strange viewing experience. When there isn’t outlandish and exciting croc carnage on screen, the main characters are entangled in weighty political warfare.
4. Lake Placid (1999)
A team of experts is called in to apprehend a large, misplaced crocodile that’s causing mayhem in and around a Maine lake.
Critics were not at all kind towards Lake Placid during its initial release. Maybe the humor in this Steve Miner film was too snarky for them. Regardless, the movie has found a cult following that appreciates the unadulterated, snide attitude of the characters and dialogue. Thanks to the magic of Stan Winston Studios, that immense crocodile is still stunning after all these years. By the way, there’s a bunch of made-for-television sequels if you’re feeling self-loathing.
3. Rogue (2007)
The passengers of a capsized river cruise in the Northern Territory of Australia is under attack by an unrelenting saltwater crocodile.
Greg McLean‘s only creature feature thus far was a commercial failure, but Rogue has garnered plenty of praise over the years. Just as it should, too. An actual saltie named Sweetheart was the basis for the film. Between 1974 and 1979, he became notorious for his penchant for attacking boats. The funny thing is, though, he never killed any humans. That’s where Rogue takes ample liberties. The film adaptation is harrowing at every turn, and it’s the cream of the crop when it comes to Crocsploitation.
2. Black Water (2007)
Along with her sister, a woman and her husband go on an undocumented fishing tour in the Australian mangroves. After their tour guide is killed by a crocodile, the three are left to fend for themselves with no way of getting home.
The low-budgeted Black Water edges out a lot of other renowned croc flicks for two reasons — 1) They use a real crocodile in most of the scenes, and 2) the movie is nail-bitingly scary. There’s a sense of startling realism here that other similar movies fail to convey.
1. Alligator (1980)
Feeding on pets injected with toxic growth hormones causes an alligator to reach gigantic proportions. It eventually escapes its subterranean confines and feeds on the citizens of Chicago.
Of all the Jaws copycats born out of the eco-horror boom of the seventies and eighties, Alligator ranks as the one of the absolute best. Besides the laudable practical effects involved, the movie has a dark, underrated sense of humor. A middling direct-to-video sequel called Alligator II: The Mutation was released in 1991.
There you have it — ten crocsploitation movies to keep you entertained before or after you see Crawl on July 12! Let us know what your favorite killer croc/gator horror movie is on Twitter, in the official NOFS Subreddit, and on Facebook in the Horror Movie Fiend Club!