Alligator: Reptilian Sewer Carnage
Dir. Lewis Teague (1980)
A sewer gator grows to tremendous proportions and makes society regret flushing it down the toilet.
I’ve never understood the (very real) premise behind this film, in which a family buys their kid a baby alligator and flushes it down the toilet when it becomes too much to deal with. There were always urban legends about how this exact thing led to giant gators in the sewers of New York City, but like… who the fuck would do something like that? First off, who would buy their child an alligator unless they’re Steve Irwin, and who would flush a living animal down the toilet? Sick fucks, at some point they deserve what they get, I’d think. Regardless of how prevalent the legendary practice actually was, the legend itself contributed dozens of scary campfire stories and, well… this movie and its sequel!
The film stars the great Robert Forster as an animal-loving cop who now has to deal with a big fucking gator. Sidney Lassick’s Gutchel is the worst pet store owner in the universe, who goes around finding dogs on the street to sell to a pharmaceutical company to use in their research, disposing of the bodies in the sewers afterwards. In fact, it’s this new “food source” for the sewer gator that causes it to grow to such tremendous size, and Gutchel is the second to wind up on the wrong end of the gator. We get a bit of a shock later in the film when the leading herpetologist, who helps to lead the fight against the alligator, is the same girl from the beginning of the film whose gator was flushed down the toilet. In fact, this huge alligator is her very own Ramon! Which, to be honest, is a fucking terrible name for an alligator.
No! Ramon, no! Bad Ramon!
The whole plot of the film is disgusting, and the extreme villainy of the pharmaceutical company is laughably overboard. An eco-morality tale that feels more relevant than ever, Alligator obtained it’s status as a cult classic because of its over-the-top storyline and ridiculous action sequences. The whole subplot of Forster’s detective being “accused” of murdering those who are going missing from the gator are interesting and help to drive along the plot. Ironically, the reporter’s death sort of clears Forster because he took pictures while the gator charged him. The gator breaks into the city shortly afterwards, and the city has to call in the most ridiculous Big Game Hunter in movie history, who aggressively makes “alligator noises” at the police, reporters, and, if there’s time, at the alligator itself. It’s fucking amazing, and the movie is worth a watch for that alone.
Having just watched Gamera for an upcoming YouTube appearance, I can’t help but feel like there are parts of this film that are straight up Kaiju. The way the team hunts the alligator through the sewers lend comparisons to military movements in those Japanese films of yesteryear, and the creatures immense size lend it an air of incredulity that would not be the same had it been just a mean, regular-sized alligator. It’s a classic monster movie, but it’s also aware of this fact and does its best to be self-aware and tongue-in-cheek. While it’s not the self-effacing fare made famous by the humorous slasher films of the 90’s, it is just as conscious of its place in horror and film in general. It knows that people aren’t going to take it very seriously, so it refuses to take itself very seriously. And to be honest, it’s all the better for it.
I mean, just look at the police chief’s eyebrows. Look at them!
With the acting at the level that the film exhibits, we essentially have an 70’s-80’s action film that just so happens to star a giant reptile as the main villain. We have the standard police story that is present in so many of those terrible movies, as well as the main character’s relationship with the woman who may be the key to solving the problem. It’s formulaic, but it manages to subvert some of those action tropes by, well… making its villain a giant fucking alligator. By the time the gator bursts through the pavement, making its way from the sewers to the streets, we’re excited to see what he does next in the same way that we’re always anxiously awaiting the next big shootout in those other movies. Once Forster is fired for questioning authority (because they always are in these types of movies), the gator seeks his revenge on a party being thrown by the evil pharmaceutical company and the mayor in what is undoubtably the best scene in the film. The best line, however, is delivered by Forster himself: “You’re the country’s leading herpetologist, you have a wonderful mind, a doctorate degree, and beautiful tits.”
Who this movie is for: Creature feature fans; People looking for some schlocky fun; People who wished Jaws lived in the sewers and was absolutely ridiculous
Bottom line: Ridiculous, over-the-top, and with some truly outrageous scenes of creature carnage, Alligator is one that will be appreciated by any creature feature fan. It’s a lot of fun even if it is batshit stupid, but sometimes those are the films that are the most fun. If schlocky creature features are your thing, odds are you’ve already seen Alligator. If not, do yourself a favor and give it a watch. If you only like good horror movies… well, this will be one you want to avoid.