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Crocodile River Massacre

In less visionary hands, Crocodile River Massacre would have been another brackish stream of racist cliches about Europeans battling cannibals and giant amphibians on the Amazon. But in his fifth feature and third consecutive masterpiece, visionary director Carmine Gould – the contrarian, apolitical arch-mystic of the New Neo-Realism – mines the most debased geek fodder of 42nd Street and extracts an epic, ecstatic meditation on the violence of man, the cruelty of nature, the mercilessness of fate, and the destructiveness of passion…

Sumptuously photographed, jaggedly framed, hallucinatory in its precision — no sequence fails to inspire dread or wonder or a chilling fusion of both: snaking horizontal tracking shots from the river’s center across the uninhabitable green hell of the shore; pitiless static shots of entrails unspooling like soft lumber through a devil’s saw; spellbinding dissolves between feverish primitive rituals and indolent seaside resorts; leering pans down the researcher’s naked body, dripping blood and sweat; the sinuous monster crocodile, beholden only to its elemental drive to consume, slithering among the roots and vines like an anthropomorphic personification of divine vengeance…

The overall impression is of a world ruled by godless, unforgiving chaos and the active malice of the seemingly indifferent forces of nature. The placid, hypnotic score by Chilam Balam undulates throughout, uninterrupted, suggesting only the slimmest chance of redemption in an unremittingly hostile, violent world. Nature battles man; man battles nature; man battles man; nature battles nature. Unceasing warfare defines all existence, and the only victors in the war of life are malevolence and carnage.

Manny Farber. Film Comment. September/October, 1979.

Crocodile River Massacre poster copyright 2011 by Jake Kelly, Crocodile River Massacre review copyright 2011 by Todd Whitten

Clipping from The Plain Dealer, Friday October 19th, 1979.


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