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John’s Horror Corner: Alligator (1980), a huge animatronic alligator that is an absolute joy to watch.

June 18, 2022

MY CALL: No joke, this was way better than expected. And not totally in a “so bad it’s good” kind of way, which it is. But in a great animatronic monster movie kind of way. The animal attack scenes were wide shots full of monstrous glory swallowing victims whole on-screen. Just plain fun! If you don’t love this, then I don’t know what could possibly please you.

NATURAL HORROR SIDEBAR: Looking for more natural horror? Check out Night of the Lepus (1972), Frogs (1972), Bug (1975), Jaws (1975), Food of the Gods (1976), Grizzly (1976), Squirm (1976), Empire of the Ants (1977), Day of the Animals (1977), Orca (1977), Piranha (1978), Piranha II (1981), Of Unknown Origin (1983), Cujo (1983), Razorback (1984), Monkey Shines (1988),  Slugs (1988), Gnaw: Food of the Gods II (1989), Shakma (1990), Arachnophobia (1990), Ticks (1993), Mosquito (1994), The Ghost in the Darkness (1996), Anaconda (1997), Lake Placid (1999), Rogue (2007), Pig Hunt (2008), Chaw (2009), Piranha 3D (2010), The Grey (2011), The Bay (2012), The Shallows (2016), 47 Meters Down (2017), Boar (2017) and Crawl (2019).

12 years after a young girl’s pet baby alligator was flushed down the toilet, chewed up dismembered human body parts and dead over-sized dogs have been turning up in the Chicago sewers. A private research company has been doing experiments on dogs with growth hormones, and the dead dogs have been dumped where they’ve been feeding this now hormoned-up alligator. Nice one, mankind! We’re just lucky the sewer rats didn’t get into it as well for some Gnaw: Food of the Gods II (1989) as icing on that toxic pollution cake.

The investigating officer David (Robert Forster; The Wolf of Snow Hollow, Psycho, Scanner Cop II, Maniac Cop 3) goes spelunking through the sewers only to witness in horror as his rookie partner is dragged away by a tremendous alligator. Of course, no one believes what he saw. Not even herpetologist Marisa (Robin Riker)—who might have lost a pet alligator 12 years ago.

The huge animatronic alligator is an absolute joy to watch. The effects may have nothing on Crawl (2019). But these clunky 80s monsters are not without their charm. When the beast bursts through concrete onto the city streets from the sewers below, we see the whole beast lumbering its body past cars for a sense of magnificent scale.

The movie doesn’t breeze by with the best pacing. The slow parts are very slow. But I just get such a kick outta’ seeing this monster on the city streets or eating a small child in a swimming pool that it’s all worth the wait. At one point, the behemoth ambushes a man from hiding in a giant trash heap in an alley and we see the entire monster with the man in his jaws, and then working his body down his gullet just as you may have seen a gator take a whole chicken at feeding time at the zoo! We have the pleasure of seeing this beast chew on several victims. Few movies offer such man-eating joie de vivre as was so happily delivered by director Lewis Teague (Cat’s Eye, Cujo). If you don’t love this, then I don’t know what could possibly please you.

The finale defeat of the alligator is rather anticlimactic, but at least we see the gator’s head explode. And oh, of course, there was another baby gator left behind… dun dun dunnnnnn! Although I’ve heard nothing but warnings to avoid the sequel/remake.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. June 22, 2022 6:41 pm

    I remember this one and you are right, it was a joy to watch this gator 🐊 in action. Will have to find this one for a retro movie night.

    • John Leavengood permalink
      June 24, 2022 9:18 am

      I cannot stress enough how much I enjoyed this recent viewing. Having not seen it since the 90s, this very active and fully “in frame” style of horror action holds up very well.

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