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John’s Horror Corner: Alligator II: The Mutation (1991), a failure in the realm of huge animatronic alligator horror and the natural horror subgenre.

November 6, 2022

MY CALL: It’s just not worth it. Part 1 was great, this is awful—and not the good kind of bad. Just bad. MORE MOVIES LIKE Alligator II: Go watch Alligator (1980) and then Lake Placid (1999) instead. They’re very different kinds of pleasures! But both are a pleasure.

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), Crawl (2019) and The Swarm (2020).

Although purely in unflattering laughable terms, it is on the verge of infuriating that this tactlessly PG-13 movie is attached to Alligator (1980) in any way. In the world of giant alligator horror movies of the 70s-80s, Alligator (1980) is the Oscar winner and Alligator II is hardly amusing enough for a Razzy. This is no more a sequel than a line of dialogue blabbing “something like this happened before in New York.”

The alligator attack from the opening scene features a man dropping below the waist-deep water surface and thrashing as we see nothing at all. The camera alternates between guy thrashing in the water, and an underwater alligator mouth (with nothing in its mouth) chomping away at bloody water. I feel like if an episode of Miami Vice from the 80s had an alligator attack it would be just as weakly executed and just as softly presented for its TV audience. Lame. I may enjoy writing about how bad this is, but I’m already regretting my movie choice for today—and if you’ve been a John Horror Corner reader for a while, you know that’s saying a lot!

The gory highlight from the first attack scene was a one-second shot of a severed (clothed and booted) leg floating to the surface. I love me some bad movies. But let’s be clear, this sequel is far from “so bad it’s good.”

Detective David Hodges (Joseph Bologna; Transylvania 6-5000) is on the case and his wife Christine (Dee Wallace; Popcorn, The HowlingThe Lords of SalemCritters, Critters Attack!, The Hills Have Eyes) is the pathologist who informs him that the remains appear to be the product of an alligator attack in a southern California lake. Worried about the possibility of a giant sewer alligator threatening the safety of the public during a festival arranged by the mayor—yeah, this is nothing like Jaws (1975) at all—Hodges races to find this animal. The mayor enlists the help of alligator hunters from Louisiana led by Hawk (Richard Lynch; Scanner Cop, Necronomicon: Book of the Dead, Puppet Master III, Trancers II) and including a familiar face (Kane Hodder; Friday the 13th parts VII-XHatchet I-IV) among his goons.

Although any individual actor may be fairly holding their own under the circumstances, the pacing is sluggish and the dialogue is painful. Oh, and the alligator shots are weak—mostly full body shots in the dark at great distance of a guy in a rubber gator suit or an actual alligator, or close up shots of an animatronic tail, flank, or head. Eventually we start actually seeing more of the alligator, but it’s never satisfying. And when it starts attacking people, the attacks are slow and sort of boring. Imagine if you will a pool float slowing moving towards a victim, and once the pool float slowly touches the victim, they scream and flail in the water as if being mauled and ravaged. Yeah, it’s often like that. Even the finale when the alligator ravages a carnival… yeah, even that sucked. The violence sucks, the gore is almost entirely absent, and the alligator attacks are neutered.

One of the better death scenes in this movie can be reduced to a man yelling while treading red water until he just dips below the surface. The lead alligator hunter Hawk gets the most honorable alligator attack scene, complete with death roll while stabbing the crap out of it with a bent rubber knife. That may have been the one horror scene I truly enjoyed for its efforts.

The way they kill the alligator is pretty fun to watch—a rocket launcher blows it into chunks on screen. So sad that the build-up for the scene was a slog. But we need to celebrate the little victories as we find them, like the lower jar of an alligator spiraling through the air with other chunky bodily debris.

Director Jon Hess (Watchers) didn’t hit this one outta’ the park for us, did he? I loved Alligator (1980), yet loathed this sequel. I recommend a hard pass.

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