Monday, October 31, 2016

"As Exciting as Lawn Bowling" - Blood Surf (2000) - Part 2 of 2

This is Part 2 of our discussion of Blood Surf. You can read Part 1 here.

We have watched our white surfers and documentary crew escape exploding sharks and a giant crocodile that represents the evils of racism. Rescued by Dirks and Artemis, they are sailing back to Palm Island.

As the boat heads back home, the documentary crew rest in the bunks while Dirks flashes back to his encounter with the giant saltwater crocodile. The flashback involves blood in the water and Dirks in a naval uniform. He says he wants to get as far away from the crocodile as possible.

But we hear a different story from his girlfriend Artemis when she finds Zack snooping around below deck. She tells him about the last adventure tour Dirks ran, when the crocodile attacked and killed all his passengers. Now Dirks, like Ahab and Richard Harris's character in Orca before him, has a thirst for revenge, and he is throwing bait off the boat so the beast will follow him. Artemis convinces Zack that filming the capture of the giant crocodile is the money-making opportunity of a lifetime.

In the morning, the crew wakes up to find they haven't gone anywhere. The boat was circling all night, trailing crocodile bait. And now Zack is convinced he wants in on the action so he can film the killing of the crocodile, which he dubs "Big Mick." This, he says, "is gonna make blood surfing about as exciting as lawn bowling."

However, Dirks lays down the law. He won't have any part in filming. All he wants is revenge.

Suddenly the bobs attached to the bait are pulled underwater.

With all the characters of color devoured, the crocodile can now proceed to feed on the white characters. The film’s observations about racism’s victim--both non-white and whit--is truly nuanced and inspiring.

Artemis turns the boat around while Dirks, like any obsessed seaman, mans the harpoons.

The harpoons hit the crocodile and they work on reeling it toward the boat.

Showing loyalty to Zack but poor judgment, Cecily takes her camera and jumps into the water. She dives underwater to get footage of the giant beast. (The eagle-eyed expert in the special effects field might be able to detect the use of computer generated imagery in this scene.)


In a gripping sequence, the crocodile breaks free of the harpoon lines and chases after Cecily, who swims for her life. The film's crocodile trainers are to be commended for the frightening creature's ability to swim and growl on cue. Just when it seems the monstrous jaws are going to swallow Cecily, she is pulled back into the boat.

Immediately, the crocodile jumps onto the boat and attacks Jeremy. It flips Jeremy into the air, catches him in its jaws, then disappears underwater. (The eagle-eyed expert in the special effects field might be able to detect the use of forced perspective in this scene.)


With the boat damaged, Dirks reasons that the only thing to do is ram the boat into the reef surrounding the island. It crashes straight into the reef. (The eagle-eyed expert in the special effects field might be able to detect the use of miniatures in this scene).

Dirks's plan is to let the others cross the reef to the island and make their way to the ruins, where the water is full of alkaline, which salt-water crocodiles can't stand. Dirks will blow up the boat and the crocodile at the same time--in another of the film's many surprises, the boat is carrying a pack full of plastic explosives for reasons left unmentioned.

Playing against expectations, the non-surfer, Zack, sees one of the surfboards floating in the ocean and decides to ride it to shore rather than walk on the coral reef. He manages to catch a wave that, ironically, takes him straight into the jaws of the crocodile.

"Oh, man," says Bog. "That has gotta suck."

Back at the boat, the crocodile smashes through the hull to attack Dirks, who does not even get the chance to prepare any explosives. The crocodile bits the man's legs, ripping him in half. Dirks falls to the floor, dead.

When the boat fails to explode, Bog swims back to the boat while Cecily and Artemis try to find the ruins. On their way, the surviving mercenary again tries to have his way with Cecily, but he is killed by one of the mercenaries' own traps in the jungle. Once he is out of the way, the women find a rope bridge high above a river. They look down and see the crocodile at the bottom, looking up at them.

They reach the ruins and the safety of the alkaline water, then for unknown reasons they tease the beast by pulling their shirts down.

Darkness falls. The women wait in the ruins while the crocodile sits still as a log on the other side of the pond. Artemis confides that Dirks won her in a dart game. 

When Bog gets back with the explosives, he breaks the news that Dirks didn't make it. Bog, Cecily, and Artemis plant the C-4 at various places throughout the ruins on their side of the alkaline pond. A radio transmitter will detonate all the explosives. Bog knocks over a stone column to make a bridge for the crocodile to cross to their side. 

He teases the beast. "You're a belt," he says cleverly. "You're a suitcase. Cowboy boots." Apparently the last insult was one too many. The crocodile charges across the bridge and Cecily hits the button to set off the charges. The ruins explode, sending rocks and dust on top of the crocodile.

"Do you think he's dead?" Cecily asks. "If that didn't do it," Bog replies, "nothing will."

But in a shocking twist, the crocodile is not actually dead. It grabs Artemis in its jaws and swallows her.

Bog and Cecily run through the jungle, though perhaps returning to the alkaline water would have been a more strategic decision. 

They slide down a hill, followed by the crocodile. Then they swing together on a vine across the river, letting go and plunging into the water. The crocodile slides down the hill, falls off a cliff, and impales itself on a sharp rock.


Bog and Cecily kiss. The camera pans across the river while the music becomes sinister, but nothing appears. The end credits roll.

Blood Surf is easily one of the most entertaining statements on the dangers of racism released in the year 2000. The massive crocodile's symbolism of society's mechanisms enabling racism, always lurking just below the surface, is woven into the plot of the film with skill and nuance. Cleverly, the crocodile is of a salt-water variety, which is less common than the fresh-water varieties and hence might be subject to a form of racism itself in its own social structures. The final message--that racism ultimately devours both the privileged class and the downtrodden classes--is the jewel in the crown of Blood Surf's social conscience.

While social criticism is the primary raison d'etre of this film, as it is for most giant crocodile films, other elements contribute to making the viewing of the film a satisfying experience. The acting is top-notch, despite the fact that Duncan Regehr is the only familiar performer. The actors playing Bog and Jeremy are quite convincing as surfers willing to slash their appendages to attract killer sharks. The actor playing Zack is delightful as the conniving, money-hungry producer. The actress playing Cecily is likable and believable jumping into the ocean here and there to capture potentially bloody violence on camera. The actor--or actors--playing the crocodile is--or are--also quite convincing, to the extent that it would not be too much of a stretch to say that the viewer might be rooting, on occasion, for some of the human actors to end up in its mighty jaws.

The special effects, too, are entertaining and clearly a labor of love. Various techniques were used to convince the viewer that a real giant crocodile was chasing the human cast through the sea and across the island. From real-life crocodiles to what appear to be very realistic puppets, the marvelous special effects never fail to impress.

But it is truly the film's social conscience that put it head and shoulders--or rather, teeth and jaws--above the rest of the giant crocodile films flooding the theaters between the 1970s and the 2000s. Blood Surf will be remembered as the apex of giant crocodile cinema in my universe, and in all fairness should hold the same place of honor in your universe as well.