Thursday, August 5, 2010

Alligator (1980)

Remember the urban legend about alligators running loose in the sewers? The legend goes that gators were taken home by overeager kids wanted them as pets, only to be flushed down the toilet when they became problematic. The gators ended up in the sewers, eating stray pets, bums and the occasional kid and causing general hysteria.

The 1980 film Alligator follows this same premise, but also throws in some nefarious corporation illegally doing cruel experiments on animals and dumping their growth-hormone packed corpses into the sewers. Well, this is all well and good for Mr. Gator (whose real name is Ramon) since he has a steady diet of pumped up puppies that cause him to reach 30 – 40 feet in length! Still, the hormones cause him to have an insatiable appetite, so soon he is roaming the streets of Chicago, looking for his next bite! Who is gonna stop him? How ‘bout a misogynistic cop with a receding hair line (Robert Forster) and a gator scientist (Robin Riker) who happens to be the same kid whose daddy ended up flushing the alligator all those years ago!

This entry into the “animals attack” subgenre is pretty entertaining, but it has some awful characters…they are so bad, in fact, that I was rooting for the alligator the whole time! First, it appears that EVERYONE in the film is misogynistic…NO ONE believes a woman can be…GASP!…SMART or a SCIENTIST! Every male character talks down to the lone female character (the alligator scientist) and she pretty much just takes it. The receding-hairline cop even tells her he isn’t gonna take her to dinner unless it’s guaranteed that she is gonna bone him…and when they finally gets to dinner he is a major ass (as if he wasn’t enough of one to begin with). The misogyny in this film is so annoying it pretty much becomes amusing after a while…and it’s just begging to have a drinking game created for every offensive remark made!

On the plus side, the film has an interesting anti-animal cruelty/anti-animal testing perspective. The corporation, CEO and flunky “scientist” that are abusing and killing animals in lab tests are looked upon as the villains (as they should be). I found it interesting that the film had such a strong animal rights message considering that the alligator is blown to smithereens at the end. However, I’ll take animal welfare messages where I can get them, and it appears that Alligator at least has some good points about the cruelty of animal testing as well as showing how unnecessary it is in most cases (in most cases, I’m not saying all, as this is a very sticky subject).

Also, I found it interesting that I was cheering for the alligator the whole way through. “Ramon” kinda became like a superhero during the film as he took down the bad guys (most satisfying scene: seeing the CEO of the corporation get smooshed!). I didn’t care about our supposed “hero”, the cop, or even the woman gator scientist. No, I just wanted to see Ramon slither away and live another day to take a bite out of crime! Sadly, he doesn’t survive…

For an “animals attack” film, I sure don’t recall that much blood…there’s one memorable scene at the beginning where an alligator wrangler (you know, those guys in the swamp who put on shows for crowds, opening gators’ mouths, wrestling them, etc.) gets his leg bitten off, but from there the gator manglings all kinda blur together. Even the satisfying scene where the CEO gets his due isn’t all that bloody. However, I will say that the alligator looks great! Or maybe I was too distracted by the misogynistic cracks to notice…Anywho, director Lewis Teague used both an animatronic, mechanical alligator (which often malfunctioned) as well as a regular sized alligator in miniature sets. Though sometimes it was obvious, I think it still looked great nonetheless!

Alligator is a pretty decent “animals attack” horror film. If you can get past the annoying characters, misogyny and lack of gore, definitely check it out. If you don’t think you’ll like it, check it out anyway and just make a drinking game out of all the misogyny that occurs!


Available from Amazon!

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