The opening sequence with Ophelia's swim in the swamp marks this movie as an exploitation effort: full nudity followed by gore and death.
The scene then jump shifts to three upscale city couples traveling in an expensive SUV to the backwoods swamps in Louisiana. The six rich kids stop at a general store. They show their general disrespect for local traditions and people. The four men at the general store are depicted as inbred, uneducated, violent, and unsanitary.
The good old boys tell a story of the Boutine family, which was dying out some decades ago. The story culminates with the almost wedding of brother and sister (Grimley and Caroline Boutine), who are the last possible breeders in the clan. The ceremony is interrupted by a legendary gator, Lockjaw, who eats the bride. The groom is discouraged by this. He kills the gator, then eats it, including parts of his almost bride. Following one of the cliches of cannibalism, Grimley absorbs some of the strengths of Lockjaw, becoming a man/monster.
Let's have a moment of silence for that massive 'jump the shark' incident.
The local good old boys warn the six city folk to respect the tradition, which is not explained in any detail. The city folk don't show respect, of course, and the locals attempt to force the tradition on them.
Do any of the city youngsters survive this elimination derby and get home?
Cinematography: 6/10 Looked professional at least part of the time.
Sound: 7/10 Not too bad.
Acting: 4/10 Mehcad Brooks seemed way too old for the part; on the other hand, he was the best actor in the film by far. That in itself was another problem: why would such a level-headed young man get into this mess? Most of the other actors played caricatures, particularly Sid Haig. All of the actors playing swamp folk gave terrible performances.
Screenplay: 3/10 The dialog the actors were given was mostly poor. The exposition of motivation left a lot to be desired: why did anyone do any of the things they did in this movie? The worst for me was during the Niles-Lockjaw fight. There is no way that Niles could survive even one hit from the monster, much less 15 or so. Ridiculous.
SFX: 3/10 The creature effects were modestly convincing; they were reminiscent of the Creature in the Black Lagoon (1954). The gore effects were not convincing at all.