Alligator (1980)

This ‘Nature Run Amok’ creature feature is another of those that tried its best to capitalize on the revitalization of the ‘animal horror’ genre that 1975s Jaws issued into play 5 years earlier. When an impulse-buy baby gator incurs the wrath of its owners father, it finds itself swirling away down the toilet, surely doomed to die in the inhospitable underground world of pipes and darkness. Fast forward 12 years, and a string of missing pets and dismembered human remains begin turning up in the cities sewer system. The cop assigned to investigate, played by Robert Forster (Jackie Brown) and his receding hairline, soon begins to piece together a puzzle involving the illegal disposal of ‘simulated growth hormone’-infused lab animal cadavers below the city streets. Well…guess who’s been feasting. Alligator!!!…that’s who. Along the way, Forsters grizzled cop character is joined by a ‘leading’ herpetology expert, played by the devastatingly sexy Robin Riker (I know, I’d never heard of her either). And of course, peril and romance ensue, in amongst episodic scenes of Alligator-related death and carnage. One of the things I enjoyed about Alligator was that, just below the surface, there was a knowing ‘tongue in cheek’ sensibility, similar to the original Pirahna (1978). Sure, people (and children!) die in gruesome and horrible ways, but there is always this ‘winking at the audience’ kind of feeling. The filmmakers aren’t taking their horror movie seriously, why should we. I mean that in a ‘lighter’ kind of way. On the flip side, there are a couple of decent (and appropriately horrific) death scenes…like the scene where two little kids jokingly throw a smaller kid into a backyard pool during a costume party…only to watch the massive gator chomp the scrambling child into a red cloud before their horrified eyes. Or another set piece involving the gators crashing the ‘well-to-do’ outdoor banquet of the CEO of the lab responsible for the monsters creation. Many a victim get chomped and/or tail swatted into oblivion. The crafty reptile even crushes a cowering victm to death by beating his car (and therefore the guy) to a leaking pulp with its huge tail. Eventually there’s the inevitable showdown involving explosives, a ticking clock, peril and finally a ‘just barely’ escape. One thing worth mentioning was that I appreciate the restraint that was used in how the marauding beast was shown. Many shots seemed to work well because it was an actual alligator, on a miniature set. Alot of the POV and darkness-shrouded shots are surprisingly effective, only at times marred by the cheap use of a musical cue that is, like, a note off of the orginal ‘DaNaa…DaNaa…DaNaa…’ of the classic Jaws theme. I had fun watching this flick, it wasn’t as grim as it could’ve been (mind you, that could be sweet too) and to a degree, THAT helped elevate the ‘turn my brain off and enjoy’ element of this flicks presentation, which was all I wanted when I hit PLAY. If you liked Jaws, Pirahna, Orca The Killer Whale etc…odds are, this’ll bite you the right way.

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