These days, when a sequel appears after a long time after the original graced the screen, the chances are it’s being hailed as legacy sequel filled with nostalgic love for movie experience we all loved – but when the same thing happened back in the nineties? Instant red flag.
Take Alligator for example; John Sayles wittily spiteful Jaws ripoff that saw streetwise humor collide with predatory thrills as a gargantuan lizard ‘roided up on animal growth hormones messily chewed up anyone dumb enough to mess with its home in the New York sewers. Smart, sardonic and slightly satirical, the movie managed to stand on it’s own two claws back in the early 80’s and even featured a typically world weary lead performance by the late Robert Forster – fast forward to 1991 and suddenly, out of nowhere, a sequel floats to the surface as it debuts direct to video. You can understand why my spider sense started tingling, right?
Unscrupulous local money bags Vincent Brown has arranged for various drums of dodgy material from Future Chemicals to be simply tipped into the sewers in order to make a quick buck and the repeated exposure to various funky materials has allowed a sewer dwelling baby gator to mature and grow to the size of – well, I’m not exactly sure as the scale of the thing seems to alter from shot to shot – but it’s pretty damn big, I know that much. After it knocks back a couple of night time Mexican fishermen in a maneater’s idea of a midnight snack, the local community thinks that this is just another form of intimidation by Brown to move them out of their homes, but sympathetic police detective David Hodges vows to look into it.
However, the maverick Hodges, notorious around the precinct for working along to the point that he’s picked up the nickname Solo Lobo, has used up the majority of goodwill his superiors are willing to allow him, especially when he starts sniffing around Browns suspicious dealings. Still, a severed foot here and a mauled tramp there all soon start adding up and while Hodges desperately tries to get Brown to cancel his upcoming carnival to no avail, the shifty businessman puts a call in to some swaggering, Cajun Alligator hunters led by Shai Hawkins to turn the beast into an entire store’s worth of gator skin products.
Of course, the hunters haven’t banked on the creature being a tank-skined mutant and after a good many of them end up as bowel obstructions for the mighty, bitey reptile, it comes down to Hodges, rookie cop Harmon and the surviving Hawkins to end the gator threat before it rocks up to the carnival and starts treating the locals as finger foods.
So, as I mentioned before, Alligator is one of the best Jaws clones out there thanks to an intelligent script that simultaneously plays up the tongue in cheek aspect while crafting three dimentional characters – Alligator II, however, utilises its subtitle to mutate the usual killer animal tropes into something that’s shockingly boring despite boasting an Alligator the size of…. well, actually, as I mentioned in the synopsis, the movie isn’t particularly clear on exactly how big the thing is as it looks completely fucking different every time we see it. Be it a real gator filmed on a scaled down model or the big fake rubber one that looks like a giant toy, it seems like the various departments didn’t bother to communicate with each other to determine the actual size of the scaly bastard. Another issue with the toothy villain of piece is that its rampage is hardly what you’d call epic and while the original creature was gnawing off legs, choking Henry Silver down its gullet or swallowing a kid whole in a swimming pool, this thing seems a whole lot more lethargic than its predecessor and is content to simply drift lazily up to its victims like a limp turd.
It’s something of a shame, because you can tell that the script and cast is legitimately trying to sink its teeth into the same kind of naturalistic style as the original, however, director John Hess doesn’t manage to include things like pace, tension or even random instances of cheap gore to make the time pass any quicker. It’s particularly strange when you consider the Hess was also responsible for the impressively ratty Dean Koontz adaptation Watchers which had tons of unnecessary gore and cheesy monster action so I’m curious as to why Alligator II draws the line at its victims doing not much more than thrash around in the water and gargle the contents of a blood capsule.
Elsewhere, the cast is stacked with some familiar cult faces such as Dee Wallace and serial lunatic portrayers Steve Railsback and Richard Lynch (and even a small part for Jason Voorhees actor Kane Hodder) but none of them manage to get the movie to make the shift out of second gear the plot desperately needs. Even the last act rampage feels like the gator is frantically trying to shake off the after effects of a couple of sleeping pills as it nonchalantly ambles through a carnival, swatting at the occasional victim with its tail.
Lead Joseph Bologna seems to think he’s in a straight up comedy as he delivers every line like it’s the set up to to a joke that never actually comes to a punchline and while he’s not awful, his weaponized smarm is no mach for Robert Forster’s crumbled charm. However, his accent adds a bit of confusion to where the movie is actually supposed to be set. His “badda-bing” tone and the fact that I assume that this Alligator is supposed to be the same one seen at the end of the first movie suggests that we’re still in New York while the surroundings and the locals suspiciously Los Angeles, but the only city in America I’ve ever heard of called Regent Park is in Canada. Is any of this relevant? Of course not. But it’s exactly the sort of places your mind wanders while wading through this creature feature that lacks excitement, scares and most of all, teeth.
See you later, Alligator. Much later.