Saturday 28 October 2023

Movie Review: Alligator (1980)

Genre: Monster Horror
Director: Lewis Teague
Starring: Robert Forster, Robin Riker, Michael V. Gazzo, Henry Silva
Running Time: 94 minutes

Synopsis: In 1968, 14-year-old Marisa purchases a tiny pet alligator, but her father flushes it down the toilet. 12 years later, Detective David Madison (Robert Forster) starts to investigate the discovery of severed body parts, and a reporter (Bart Braverman) unwittingly reveals a huge alligator living in the sewers. Madison exposes an unscrupulous pharmaceutical company illegally dumping an experimental growth hormone, and teams up with Marisa (Robin Riker), now a herpetologist, to search for the overgrown alligator. With political pressure mounting, police Chief Clark (Michael V. Gazzo) brings in ruthless big-game hunter Brock (Henry Silva) to destroy the monster.
What Works Well: With tongue firmly in cheek, writer John Sayles shamelessly rips-off Jaws. Here the bad-science-gone-wrong horror explanation adds doses of wry humour, with everything from Madison's thinning hairline to victims being munched in their entirety contributing to a none-too-serious (but still gory) attitude. Director Lewis Teague has an eye for the spectacular, and finds highlights in the alligator bursting out of the sewer and then gatecrashing a wedding. Michael V. Gazzo's gravely voice reaches quarry proportions, but even he is upstaged by a stone-faced Henry Silva dressed in a safari suit and mimicking an alligator's mating call.

What Does Not Work As Well: The special effects are barely passable, and some of the horror scenes (including one involving kids and a swimming pool) don't work at all. Too many samey sequences take place in the sewers, Robin Riker struggles in an underwritten role, and an overall dedication to mania defeats cohesion. The monster-is-attacking music, again cloned from Jaws, is just too familiar.

Conclusion: This low-budget but still humongous alligator chomps with a wicked smile.

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