Capping the progression of “giant animals run amok” movies that plagued the 1970s, ALLIGATOR (1980) begins with a frustrated parent flushing a pet baby alligator down the toilet. After consuming the dead, genetically enhanced dogs that are regularly dumped into the city’s sewer system by a local laboratory, the alligator grows to El Dorado-sized proportions and begins a sluggish killing spree. Dismembered body parts and mauled dogs are found down at the water treatment plant, and no-nonsense cop Raymond Madison (Robert Forster, GRINDHOUSE) is called in to crack the case.
The plot occasionally wanders in order to find new murder victims. A shady, limp-wristed pet-owner in cahoots with the dog-dumping laboratory dies in an awkward display of flailing rubber and timid splashing. Madison pressures a rookie into accompanying him down in the sewers to investigate. After a dose of JAWS rip-off music, the alligator chases down the cops, hauls the rookie away, and the fight is on. Madison essentially calls in the National Guard—who show up sporting huge nets and rocket launchers and shit—and some of his more skeptical peers on the force begin to view him as a head case. A smarmy, gum-chewing journalist characters suddenly shows up, grows briefly annoying, and promptly heads down into the sewer to get eaten. The authorities enlist the assistance of a big game hunter whose penchant for anything khaki seems to be his only qualifying attribute. The alligator busts out of the sewer and (in some quaint use of miniature) begins wandering the city streets, finally hiding in an alley to await the arrival of his slow-witted but enthusiastic khaki-ensconced prey. The film is capped by a spectacularly cheesy daylight attack scene at a ritzy outdoor pool party, an energetically shot display of rigorous rubber tail attacks and splintered patio furniture.
A staple of late-night television throughout the 80s, ALLIGATOR possesses immeasurable kitsch value, but as a horror film, it’s pretty toothless. With barely glimpsed creature FX and unimpressive stump prosthetics, the film simply doesn’t hold up, even by 1980s standards. It’s poorly plotted, with characters wandering into the screenplay for no reason and then promptly abandoning all rational thought to begin cruising the sewers. The kill scenes come at regular intervals like something out of a screenwriting class assignment; you can almost set your watch to them. It doesn’t help that the poor editing and paper mache gore effects completely neuter the film’s more “shocking” moments. Still, it’s at least unintentionally entertaining, which is more than I can say for PRIMEVAL, a movie that set the killer reptile subgenre back 20 years.