One of the greatest monster movies of all time
`Alligator' is the best of the post-`Jaws' imitators of the late 70's and
early 80's and is one of the greatest monster movies ever.
Detective David Madison (Robert Forester) is on a case where human body
parts are turning up in a sewage filtration system. One of them belongs to a
chemical research facility where the head, Slade (Dean Jagger) is giving
orders to use puppies in experiments for gene growth. Since the attacks have
been traced to have originated from inside the sewer, Madison and another
officer, Kelly, (Perry Lang) venture into the sewers to investigate. They
find the source to be a giant alligator that attacks them both, with Kelly
being killed. Madison and his boss, (Michael Gazzo) visit a Dr. Kendall,
(Robin Riker) a specialist on alligators. A reporter (Bart Braverman)
investigating Madison's claims goes into the sewer to check, resulting in
his death as well at the teeth of the alligator. However, he photographs the
alligator during the attack, giving evidence of the creature's existence. A
plan to flush it out of the sewers fails, as the alligator remains in the
sewer. The alligator erupts from under a street and kills another policeman,
then escapes into a nearby waterpond. A big-game hunter (Henry Silva) is
brought in to find the alligator, but he is also killed. The alligator
crashes a party at Slade's mansion, leaving the house in ruins and body
parts scattered across the property. Madison and Kendall come to their sense
to stop the alligator together when they realize that the alligator is the
grown-up adult of the alligator Kendall thought she lost as a young girl.
They lead him back into the sewer and blow it up with explosives.
The Good News: The movie is actually very quickly paced. There is a killing
averaging almost every ten minutes, and they are all very violent deaths.
There is a lot of gore in this movie also, as many victims are killed very
gruesomely. The best death belongs to Burke the hunter, as he is killed very
slowly and is actually eaten. You can see his body slowly sink lower in the
alligator's jaws as he swallows him down. Also, the alligator `Ramon' is
extremely convincing as a robotic prop. The detailing is amazing, as the
skin looks like a real alligator skin. He has a wide range of moves that are
natural and believable, for once making the reptile better on the screen
than his human counterparts. Also, it is almost an action-film, as scenes
have an action-ish appearance. The attack on Slade's mansion, the canal
fight, the ending explosions, and the bombardment in the waterpond all come
together to give it an action-style movie. That being said, `Alligator' is
still a horror movie. The reason for the creature to be is a popular urban
myth come true, and the chemical angle, while glossed over briefly, is an
important one and fits with the movie. The main reason for this being a
horror movie is the suspense. Being an 80's movie, I was shocked at how
suspenseful it was. The killing of the animal control worker, the killing of
the reporter, the false-revelation between Madison and Kelly, and the ending
especially are quite suspenseful. The ending, where Madison is trying to set
a bomb to kill the alligator, and showing the alligator's advance on Madison
are effectively shot suspense scenes, and then after setting the bomb,
Madison gets trapped under a manhole, then gets free in seconds real-time.
Setting the film in dark, narrow sewer canals was also an interesting
approach, giving the viewer an almost claustrophobic feeling.
The Bad News: Dear God, the acting here is atrocious. Riker and Forester
have zero chemistry between them, and their scenes together are very wooden.
As expected, though, the alligator does change sizes very frequently. Even
the use of a real alligator was used in several scenes as the creature
approaches Madison at the end, making the viewer sit-through several quick
changes in the animal's size and appearance, as the alligator they use is oh
so obvious a baby in a miniature sewer set.
The Final Verdict: `Alligator' is probably one of the greatest
creature-on-the-loose films of all time. It never makes you stupider after
watching it, and it provides enough diversity in it to satisfy almost every
kind of horror film fan.
Rated R: Graphic Violence, some language, and several scenes depicting and
describing animal cruelty..
Blows most other gator / croc films out of the water.
With this film, screenwriter John Sayles and director Lewis Teague take
that urban legend about alligators in the sewers and use it to craft a
solid and amusing little horror flick. It's simply great B horror.
Robert Forster is likable homicide detective David Madison, forced to
confront a sewer-dwelling gator that's grown to giant proportions after
feasting on dead dogs that had been injected with a growth hormone.
Madison is a guy fighting both inner and outer demons in this case.
Sayles uses the script for some sly social commentary, and injects it
with an effective self-awareness and some memorable in-jokes. He and
Teague know they're making B horror, and make it a lot of fun, and lift
it above other entries in the killer animal sub genre with the humor,
intelligence, and spirit of the thing. Teague moves it forward at an
amazing pace, delivering suspense and shocks equally well throughout.
The effects are above average and the film delivers some good set
pieces right up to what is one hell of a scene. The gator runs amok at
a wedding, causing much damage and savaging a number of people.
However, the scene where it emerges from under the street is pretty
good, too. A good amount of atmosphere is established in the sewer
scenes and Craig Hundley contributes a good, subtle, creepy music
score. The film also has guts for being willing to have *anybody* be a
victim in this film, in an especially nasty swimming pool scene.
Forster is a perfect Everyman type of hero, alluring, husky voiced
redhead Robin Riker is appealing as the reptile expert (And, for a
change, her scientist character *doesn't* loudly clamor for the beast
to be taken alive if possible), and the truly raspy voiced Michael V.
Gazzo is a hoot as the crusty police chief. The same goes for wonderful
old Dean Jagger as the swaggering boss of the pharmaceutical company
that inadvertently created the monster gator, and Henry Silva, who's
downright hilarious as the big game hunter with the big ego. The cast
is littered with other familiar faces such as Sydney Lassick, Sue Lyon,
Angel Tompkins, Royce D. Applegate, and John Goff. They all help to
make this quite enjoyable. "Alligator" is definitely required viewing
for a monster movie fan.