Director – Lewis Teague
Cast – Robert Forster, Robin Riker, Michael V. Gazzo, Dean Jagger, Sydney Lassick, Jack Carter, Perry Lang, Henry Silva, Bart Braverman
Release Year – 1980
Reviewed by John of the Dead
Boy does this flick bring back memories. I remember staying up late at night to watch this film, and it satisfies my love for horror and animals just as much today as it did back then. I have always been a fan of “killer animal” horror films, and this is one of the very first that I remember seeing. Full of awesome alligator carnage, gore, and some nifty direction, Alligator is a classic in the realm of the “killer animal” horror sub-genre.
Alligator begins with an agitated father flushing his daughter’s infant pet alligator, named Ramon, down the toilet. Fast forward several years later and the city of Chicago is frantic over the discovery of human body parts floating in the city’s sewage system. The police believe that a serial killer is on the loose, but they are dead wrong. Over the years Ramon has been devouring the bodies of discarded animals dumped in the sewers by a pharmaceutical company running experiments on the animals, experiments that manipulate hormones and cause the animals to grow to twice their size, including Ramon. The Chicago police force assigns a veteran detective named David to the case, and he meets the killer he has been looking for…in the worst of ways. With his new partner digesting in the stomach of the giant alligator, David enlists the help of a bright herpetologist named Marisa to help him track the alligator and put an end to its reign of terror. However, when Ramon decides to leave his sewage underworld and make his way to the surface new problems arise, and so does the death toll.
As far as the horror genre goes, this may be the best “killer animal” film in the genre. For what this film is, a low-budget creature film, it sure does give us a lot in its most important element…the creature. In Lake Placid and Rogue we get crocodiles that did some pretty awesome things, but only because the films utilized CGI to attain them. In this film we get nothing but live-action alligator action, and it sets it far above any of its killer croc/alligator competitors. I was really surprised to see the amount of gore we get in this film, mainly because of the film’s budget. Thankfully director Lewis Teague(Cujo, Cat’s Eye) laid the gore on thick, and in proper and respectable ways. Yes, it is possible to lay on a lot of gore and make it classy and respectable as well, and he did just that. The scenes of the crocodile walking through the city were epic, and showed just how some nifty direction can solve any non-CGI dilemmas and give us live-action horror without giving anything up. As if this film could not sound any cooler, it GETS cooler. The greatest “killer animal” scene of all time occurs towards the end of this film, when Ramon decides to crash a ritzy wedding reception, and leaves the suits and dresses full of holes and blood. Simply put, the scene is epic.
Story-wise is where I decided to overgo my initial rating of a 7, and give this an 8-rating. Why? Well, because this flick comes with more than what we see on screen. I loved the biological and ethical elements thrown in the film, and it turns out to be the sole driving force behind the carnage that ensues at the hands, or teeth, of Ramon. There is a strong sub-plot involving a research company that is manipulating hormones in animals so that they can market a new drug, and it is because of that research company illegally disposing of their used specimens that Ramon was able to become so gigantic and subsequently destructive. When his home is invaded by the Chicago police force, he does the only thing that he can do when an animal’s environment is invaded…it migrates to the city. I did enjoy that this element was a bit hidden in its potential conservation propaganda, because had this been a devout propaganda film it would lose any and all respect from me and from those who look to see the most important element, the horror itself, then any and other subsequent elements thrown in.
Overall, this is an awesome “killer animal” film that brings the goods and delivers an awesome live-action creature. We get some great gore, good direction, and a nice storyline that delivers more than meets the eye. If you enjoy these types of films then this is a guaranteed must-watch.