31 Monsters in 31 Days: Alligator

Lewis Teague’s ALLIGATOR, his JAWS-inspired giant-beast-run-amok production from 1980, doesn’t seem to get much love these days. That’s too bad, because it really is a fun movie, with a clever script by John Sayles (who wrote this at the same time he wrote THE HOWLING), a solid performance from leading man Robert Forester, and a terrific title creature. Even when the special effects are lacking–like JAWS, the mechanical creature often malfunctioned, forcing the filmmakers to use a real alligator on not-terribly-convincing miniature sets–it helps bring out the movie’s simple charm.

I remember watching ALLIGATOR on TV when I was six or seven. ABC had put a considerable promotional push behind it (this being an era when movies broadcast on network television was still a big deal), and my parents even allowed me to stay up (to eleven! on a school night!) to see it, making it an absolute must-watch event. I was so excited that I promptly fell asleep somewhere around the midpoint–probably for the best, as the scene in which the gator descends on a wedding party to feed would’ve freaked me the hell out.

ALLIGATOR serves as a fond homage to creature features of the past while delivering a contemporary thriller. I wish today’s crop of nostalgia-happy filmmakers would remember the latter’s as important as the former.

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