Alligator (1980)

Alligator (1980)

“Well, if I couldn’t get myself killed chasing it, what fun would it be?”

While investigating a series of mysterious disappearances, a Chicago police detective (Robert Forster) discovers the presence of an enormous mutant alligator (“Ramon”) living in the city’s sewers.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Corruption
  • Detectives and Private Eyes
  • Horror
  • Mutant Monsters

Response to Peary’s Review:
This low-budget sci-fi thriller effectively plays upon the fears generated by “rumors of alligators roaming around urban sewer systems” after tourists return from Florida with live gator babies they no longer want. Screenwriter John Sayles cleverly exploits the unexpected dangers of illicit scientific experimentation (Ramon has grown to astronomical proportions from eating the hormone-riddled corpses of dumped lab animals) while addressing the age-old suspicion about what may happen if you flush live animals down the toilet. The movie’s limited budget shows through occasionally (particularly, as Peary notes, when Ramon emerges onto the city streets), and Sayles’s script is unduly formulaic at times — but for the most part Alligator remains consistently amusing, and just freaky enough to keep you on your toes.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Plenty of enjoyable humor

  • John Sayles’s clever script

Must See?
No, but it’s a fun, surprisingly literate “mutant monster” flick.


One thought on “Alligator (1980)

  1. A once-must, as a quite-effective ‘answer’ to ‘Jaws’. I may actually prefer it.

    I don’t find anything campy or ‘wink-wink’ amusing about ‘Alligator’. Not that it doesn’t have funny lines, but Sayles’ script is way too knowing. (And it’s interesting to see how he cleverly paid the bills as he was screenwriting his way to his own, more personal films.) Here he takes the opportunity to say quite a bit about the more screwed-up elements of American society: messing with the environment, capitalistic greed – y’know, the usual suspects.

    Hadn’t seen this in many years and am actually surprised by how well it has aged. Yes, the budget is a little low – but you would hardly notice, thanks apparently to a resourceful producing team and to director Lewis Teague’s ingenuity. (As well, certain scenes – esp. the garden party sequence and the ending – are edited for maximum effect.)

    Those behind the film could have very easily gone the route of parody or cheap cash-in but, instead, they chose to put their own stamp on the sub-genre that was one of the flavors of the period. For a film of this sort, it’s refreshingly intelligent, has a game cast, and it remains a worthy entry.

    See if you can spot Sue Lyon in a cameo as a tv newswoman.

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