Alligator II: The Mutation (1991) and the Direct-to-VHS Destruction of a Legacy


I’m not too precious about the 1980 creature feature Alligator and the dismissive ways it’s been handled in the decades since its release. For all of the film’s wonderful bouts of grotesque violence & magical realism, it’s still at heart a cheap Jaws knockoff with the main selling point that it’s centered on an alligator, not a shark. I’m proud to have Alligator included here as a Movie of the Month selection, but it’s not the kind of movie I’d expect to be especially protective of when it comes to its sovereignty as an intellectual property. Imagine my surprise, then, when I found myself near-infuriated with the direct-to-VHS sequel Alligator II: The Mutation. There was something especially egregious & needless about the decade-late followup to Alligator that really rubbed me the wrong way, despite the futility of being upset by such a mundane slice of schlock media being obvious to me the entire time. This must be what it feels like for those dweebs who get up in arms about Paul Feig’s upcoming Ghostbusters adaptation.

As silly as it sounds I’m more upset by Alligator II‘s mishandling of the first film’s titular monster Ramón than of the movie property as a franchise. I know we’ve already covered this extensively this month, but Ramón was something of an epic badass. Flushed down the toilet as a tiny baby, Ramón grew to dinosaur-like proportions by feeding on the discarded corpses of animal test subjects that littered his home in the Chicago sewer system and eventually broke above ground to punish the wicked evil-doers who would treat animals so cruelly & heartlessly. The only reptile I know possibly named after a painter, he was a myth, a legend. Sure, Ramón might have chomped on an innocent child or a stray cop in the process, but he’s an alligator at heart, so it’s understandable that his murderous revenge mission might’ve been muddled by a mistake or three.

Alligator II: The Mutation completely unravels Ramón’s legacy. Ramón exploded at the conclusion of Alligator, but I figured that the modern presence of a dino-sized gator woudn’t be the kind of thing people would easily forget. I was wrong, apparently. Although Alligator II is billed as a sequel, no one in the film seems to be aware that Ramón ever existed. Surely, a monstrous gator terrorizing one of America’s largest cities into widespread panic would be the kind of thing that would at least make the papers, if not inspire documentaries & feature film adaptations. In The Mutation, however, the lead detective & his wife calmly discuss past examples of sewer gators possibly existing in New York City (as if urban legend were verifiable history), but they never make reference to the reptilian destruction of Chicago from the first Alligator film. In the sequel’s dull world Ramón’s legacy has been completely erased.

This slight might’ve been forgivable had Ramón been replaced by the new, exciting monster promised in The Mutation‘s title. Instead, our new gator villain is a much lesser, more forgettable breed. Instead of ingesting his toxic chemicals secondhand like Ramón, the nameless gator of The Mutation drinks his hooch straight from the barrel. Still, he’s a puny garden snake next to the mythical proportions of Ramón. Must be a weaker toxic waste formula. The camera does its best to obscure the gator in The Mutation‘s tiny stature (and to save money for that matter) by limiting the audience’s opportunities to get a full, clear look at the brute. He never feels big enough to excite as a result & often plays onscreen like a regular, run of the mill gator, which is an insult to both Ramón’s legacy & to this gator’s “mutation” moniker. The movie also softens the violence & cruelty  of its gator attacks and completely removes the revenge mission plot of the first film, thus erasing a lot of what made Ramón special as a nuanced antihero (as nuanced as a killer gator can be, anyway). The idea that the bargain bin gator of The Mutation shares a franchise with the legendary Ramón is an unforgivable discredit to the Alligator name.

There is exactly one scene where the name “Ramón” is uttered in Alligator II: The Mutation. In this scenario, however, Ramón is a professional wrestler, not a professional gator (at one point a character even says “I understand you’re professionals, but this is not a professional alligator”, whatever that means). The most entertaining thirty second stretch of this film involves cutting back & forth between the killer gator thrashing a homeless man with his tale & a pro wrestling event being greedily enjoyed by a corrupt mayor, a playful juxtaposition that conjures parallels between those particular acts of violence. I’ll admit to finding other stray moments amusing as well: the gator tearing up a local carnival, scuba divers exploring the crystal clear waters of a swamp, a laughable portrayal of kindhearted Latino street toughs, etc. All told, about 2 minutes of Alligator II are legitimately entertaining, leaving the other 90 for me to stew in Ramón’s ruined legacy.

For the most part, The Mutation is desperately lifeless. It’s not even satisfied limiting the cruelty of its gator action; it also takes to watering down the product a step further by mostly removing the gator from the city sewers & having it terrorize people at a lakeside resort, a change in locale that calls much more attention to its Jaws knockoff roots than necessary. Normally I’d brush a trifle like this decade-late creature feature sequel off without giving it much of a thought, but I’ve grown too fond of Ramón to feel that way. Instead, the film’s gray mush distortion of its predecessor felt like a cold-hearted betrayal. Ramón deserved so much better & everyone involved should feel ashamed for letting him down.

For more on June’s Movie of the Month, the 1980 creature feature Alligator, check out our Swampchat discussion of the film, this look at artist Ramón Santiago’s unlikely influence on its titular monster, and our roundup of five other must-see, sharkless Jaws (1975) knockoffs.

-Brandon Ledet

Alligator (1980) and 5 Other Must-See, Sharkless Jaws (1975) Knockoffs


June’s Movie of the Month, the 1980 natural horror Alligator, is fascinating for many reasons, not least of all for being s a sharkless Jaws ripoff that mostly takes place out of the water. The years after Spielberg’s runaway success with that game-changing big budget creature feature saw a slew of cheap knockoffs of many different flavors. Many post-Jaws natural horrors didn’t even bother hiding their mimicry by changing their central monster’s species (Mako: The Jaws of Death, Tintorera: Tiger Shark, Great White aka The Last Shark, Blood Beach, etc., but there were plenty of Jaws imitators that did reapply the film’s mythically-gigantic beast model to non-shark animalia. Alligator‘s ginormous, vengeful monster Ramón was clearly inspired by his Great White predecessor but he was far from alone. We already covered much of what makes Alligator special in our Swampchat discussion of the film, but what of the other sharkless Jaws knockoffs that terrorized the drive-ins & grindhouses of the late 70s & early 80s?

Here are the five best sharkless, non-Alligator Jaws knockoffs I could find lurking in schlock cinema’s murkiest waters.


1) Piranha (1978)

Piranha is a special case within the Jaws-knockoff continuum, because it forms a sort of schlock cinema ouroboros. A lot of what films like Jaws & Star Wars did in the late 1970s was elevate the b-movie genre film work folks like Roger Corman had been producing for years to a big budget Hollywood “event film” format. With Piranha, Roger Corman bit back, “borrowing” from (and in some ways openly mocking) a big budget film that had heavily “borrowed” from his own work. Piranha is not only special for creating a cycle of schlocky theft & for turning the water-bound threat of the Jaws format into thousands of tiny monsters instead of one gigantic one, though; it also introduced the world to the violent slapstick magic of director Joe Dante. Dante’s trademark touch of silly & violent parody is already very much alive & fully realized in Piranha, with every goofy murder & biting spoof revealing all-too-definitively that he loves the movies he’s making as well a the ones he’s blatantly ripping off. Bonus points: Perfect angel Paul Bartel stars as a short-shorts wearing camp counselor from Hell.


2) Grizzly (1976)

There are many ridiculous things to note about Grizzly, not least of all its Jaws-but-with-a-bear! premise (if there’s any doubt of its Jaws connection, just look to its sequel, which was brazenly titled Claws), but the one that strikes me the most is its PG rating. The film operates largely like a slasher flick, from its campsite setting to its wooden between-kills acting, which is not a genre that leads itself to a PG mentality. Many of the film’s kills are from the bear’s first person POV where you see a claw intruding from off-screen to rip an undeserving (and sometimes undressing) victim to shreds where you’d normally see a machete in Jason Voorhees’s gloved hand. Jaws & Friday the 13th are both properties children probably shouldn’t watch, but often grow up loving, so the idea of combining their two aesthetics and replacing their villains with a 2,000 pound grizzly bear is a PG-rated horror cheapie formula exactly calibrated to terrorize cult film nuts as children & amuse them greatly as adults.


3) Razorback (1984)

An Australian horror film about a supernaturally enormous wild boar, Razorback should not be worth much more than its value as an 80s creature feature Jaws knockoff, but there’s something oddly special about it, especially in its visual palette. This film is the most similar to Alligator‘s specimen on this list not only because it’s one of the only examples whose mayhem takes place on land, but also because of its darkly grotesque & vaguely magical tone.The wild boar of Razorback is far from the kind of cinematic swine you’ll find in titles like Babe or Gordy. It’s a disgusting, vile monster of a beast, tearing apart homes & vehicles and snatching up babies & women with wild abandon, his menacing tusks threatening to gore everything in sight. There’s a scene where the hideous bastard prevents a near-rape, almost shining as an unlikely hero like our vengeful gator Ramón, but that sentiment is severely undercut when he immediately devours the would-be victim. He’s allowed to be a natural, wild monster in a way that Ramón sidesteps in his more deliberately vengeful acts of violence (except for that one time the gator ate a child at a pool party for no apparent reason).


4) Orca: The Killer Whale (1977)

Instead of attempting to sidestep or obscure its Jaws, um, homage, Orca tackles the issue head-on. Early on in Orca a Great White shark not unlike the supernaturally gigantic one in Spielberg’s film is shown being utterly, effortlessly destroyed by a killer whale. There’s an air of superiority to this opening clash, an attitude of “You think sharks are scary? Ha! Get a load of whales!” It’s only fitting, then, that Orca spends the rest of its runtime openly mimicking some of Jaws‘s most iconic scenes, such as a climactic battle where the whale tips a block of ice to slide its victim towards its mouth, a moment that miraculously doesn’t end with the line “You’re gonna need a bigger iceberg.” There’s a lot that distinguishes Orca as its own achievement, not least of all its incredibly life-like orca models, one of which is spectacularly shown having a post-mortem miscarriage. Mostly, though, the film is notable for being incredibly faithful & blatant in its Jaws mimicry and also strange to watch in a modern context after our minds on orcas have been forever altered by titles like Blackfish & Free Willy.


5) Tentacles (1977)

There’s not much to see in the Italian mockbuster Tentacles that you won’t see done better in Jaws, but it’s done with an enraged octopus, which, you know, is its own kind of rare treat. The film is a fairly lifeless retread of the exact tourism-disrupted-by-gigantic-sea-creature plot of its obvious source of inspiration, but the novelty of watching an enraged octopus being air-dropped into Jaws‘s exact structure is amusing in its own way. I mostly included Tentacles on this list because it’s a fitting baseline to see just how blatant & uninspired the Jaws knockoff genre can be. It can also be amusing to see the mismatched stock footage attacks the film employs to save money on actual special effects. In its own charming way it’s a technique that feels lifted directly out of the 1950s creature features Jaws itself was paying homage to, not that it wasn’t outshined by the much more impressive physical models built by nearly every other title on this list.


For more on June’s Movie of the Month, the 1980 creature feature Alligator, check out our Swampchat discussion of the film & this look at artist Ramón Santiago’s unlikely influence on its titular monster.

-Brandon Ledet

Artist Ramón Santiago’s Unlikely Influence on the Creature Feature Alligator (1980)


June’s Movie of the Month, Alligator, is an early 80s creature feature about a baby alligator named Ramón who grows mythically gigantic after being flushed down the toilet & feeding on a cruel science experiment’s cast-off corpses of animal subjects he finds in the Chicago sewers. Ramón is a fascinating monster in many ways. He not only embodies the urban legend of alligators living out of place in the sewer systems of major American cities; he’s also the size of a dinosaur and has an uncanny ability to hunt down & exact revenge upon the heartless people who’ve wronged him & other discarded animals. Still yet, one of the strangest aspects of Alligator‘s titular monster is that he’s indicated to be named after the little known, late painter Ramón Santiago. How or why that association between the gator & the painter was made is a total mystery.

Britnee wrote in our Swampchat discussion on Alligator, “During the scenes in David’s apartment, there are prints on the wall by Ramón Santiago (obvious inspiration for the alligator’s name). I was unaware of Santiago’s work prior to noticing the prints in the film, and I have to say that this guy has some phenomenal art. […] According to Santiago’s website, he stated, ‘My paintings are what dreams are made of.’ I would say that’s a pretty accurate description of his work. Unfortunately, I haven’t stumbled across an Santiago gator paintings yet.Indeed, Google search results for “Ramón Santiago alligator” don’t lead any Santiago depictions of gators or even any discussions of the 1980 horror film in question (except for our own). At what point, exactly, was Santiago brought in as inspiration for our reptilian antihero Ramón? The artist could theoretically have served as a point of inspiration for director Lewis Teague or screenwriter John Sayles, but he could just as easily have been brought in as a sly visual joke by the set designer. There’s not a lot of evidence or context to point this connection in any solid direction.

Although there are no Santiago paintings of gators we were able to hunt down & the artist’s unlikely inclusion in the film might’ve been a question of set design or clever prop, it’s easy to see how his work fits into the Alligator universe on a very basic aesthetic level. Santiago’s work is dark & brooding, the exact same muted & grimy color palette of the gator Ramón’s urban environment. There’s also a magician’s touch to the painter’s work that is simultaneously a little corny & vastly mysterious, a combo of sentiments I could also assign to the gator Ramón’s artistry: chomping people to bits for crimes against animalia. The two Ramóns, painter & gator, are artists who largely go unrecognized for their accomplishments (pretty pictures & spectacular violence, respectfully). At first glance their work can appear a little common or even silly, but there’s a dark, mysterious soul lurking underneath he surface in both cases that makes them oddly fascinating in an unexpected way.

Until the greater mystery of the two Ramón’s true connection (if any truly exists) is cracked, here are a few of their works juxtaposed for your own consideration.







For more on June’s Movie of the Month, the 1980 creature feature Alligator, check out our Swampchat discussion of the film.

-Brandon Ledet

Movie of the Month: Alligator (1980)


Every month one of us makes the rest of the crew watch a movie they’ve never seen before & we discuss it afterwards. This month Britnee made BoomerBrandon watch Alligator (1980).

Britnee: There’s a popular urban legend about alligator sightings in the streets of major U.S. cities.  It’s said that city dwellers would bring back baby alligators as souvenirs from trips to Louisiana and Florida, and once they grew tired of the baby gators, they would flush them down the toilet. The baby alligators would then grow up in city sewers and become giant mutant gators. Lewis Teague brings this myth to life in his 1980 sci-fi horror flick Alligator.

Campy creature features were a hot commodity around the time Alligator was released (Piranha, Humanoids from the Deep, C.H.U.D., etc.), and usually the film gets thrown into that group. Yes, there are many campy moments in Alligator, but it’s actually an excellent, well-rounded film. I would go as far as to say it’s close to being on the same level as Jaws.

Upon recently re-watching the film, I found myself to be really let down by the fact that our leading lady, Marisa (Robin Ryker), didn’t have even the smallest emotional connection with the star of the film, an alligator named Ramón. In the beginning of the film, a young Marisa has baby Ramón as a pet in a pretty lame reptile tank setup (crappy neon pebbles included). Her douchebag of a father flushes Ramón down the toilet, sending him to live a horrible life in the disgusting garbage-filled sewers of Chicago. The film then flashes forward to 20 years later, and Marisa is a reptile expert that assists a police officer, David (Robert Forester), in hunting down Ramón, who has become a giant, mutated alligator that is terrorizing the city. Marisa never realizes that the mutant gator is in fact her childhood pet Ramón, and that just didn’t sit well with me. I’m all about a good human-animal connection in film, and I think just a small moment where Marisa sees a spark in Ramón’s eye and realizes who he is would make this film so much better.

Brandon, were you also a little let down by the lack of a connection between Marisa and Ramón? What did you ultimately think of Ramón? Was he really the film’s villain?

Brandon: Okay, I am stoked that we’re getting into this question of Ramón‘s morality this early, because there’s a lot more to unpack there than you might expect. As a mythically gigantic, bloodthirsty reptile you might expect that Ramón was pure evil (or at the very least a chaotic neutral force of Nature). However, there’s a spirit of moralistic vigilantism to some of his kills that makes him more akin to the nuanced antiheroism of folks like your Bruce Waynes or your Don Drapers or your Walter Whites. We are unclear as to who Ramón‘s first victim is, as all the police discover is a severed limb in a Chicago sewer. His second victim is a wicked pet store owner who kidnaps neighborhood dogs, sells them to a crooked science lab, and disposes of their bodies in Ramón‘s underground home. Later, in one of the film’s most spectacular scenes of alligator mayhem, Ramón also hunts down & dismantles the science lab employees that cruelly abused these discarded animals in the first place at a stuffy wedding party. There’s also a tangent where Ramón gets payback on a sleazeball big game hunter meant to take him out.

If Ramón is the hero of Alligator the proof is in these moments, which position him as some sort of sewer-dwelling vigilante who punishes evil Chicagoans who flush their pets down the toilet. It’s only when police & news reporter investigations drive Ramón out of the sewers & disrupt his shit-stained habitat that he resorts to killing innocents, including cops & children. As these are the exact kinds of victims people tend not to forgive, this greatly complicates the question of Ramón‘s moral compass.

Another thing that complicates how we see Ramón as a misunderstood friend or a murderous foe is in the surprising high quality of Alligator‘s special effects. He’s just too spectacularly terrifying to take lightly. I think the effects also cloud the issue of whether or not Alligator qualifies as camp cinema, as Britnee was concerned with above. There are some larger-than-life caricatures in this film, not least of all the sentient sausage/cigar hybrid police chief & the nastily creepy pet store owner that make Alligator feel far short of Jaws (a movie it openly riffs on) in terms of quality, no doubt. However, on a technical note, the combination of real-life gators & gigantic gator puppets are near seamless. As many times as I was tempted to scoff at certain moments (the spinning toilet cam when baby Ramón is first flushed comes to mind), I was also just as impressed with some technical achievements in Ramón‘s gator attacks, especially once he emerges above ground. Watching the mutant gator smash through city streets, destroy cars with its massive tail, swallow victims whole, and completely raise hell at the aforementioned wedding party were all more visually impressive moments than I what I expected from this film, given its sillier flourishes. The movie wastes no time opening with a gator attack, so I expected it to be violent, but I didn’t expect the violence to be so well crafted on a technical (or budgetary) level.

There were also ways Alligator could’ve gone even further in a campier direction, such as a more formal, on-the-nose reunion with Ramón & the adult Marissa or more attention paid to the evil science lab that made Ramón so large in the first place. I would’ve loved to see Ramón & Marissa have their moment of recognition or the results some of the experiment’s other failed test subjects, but either detail would’ve undoubtedly played as a silly indulgence. The resulting tone, then, is somewhere in the middle. Alligator is at times very silly, and at times well-crafted & darkly grotesque.

I have a hard time imagining one of us reviewing this film & not slapping a “Camp Stamp” on it, but I’m also the mostly likely contributor around here to apply that label to any movie. What do you think, Boomer? Where does Alligator fall in or outside the spectrum of camp cinema?

Boomer: I don’t know that I would call this a camp film, actually. It has its fair share of campy ideas, but the general seriousness of the situation and the brutality of the onscreen deaths (particularly that of the child who is killed at some kind of costume party) make up for the sillier elements. There are certainly some deranged elements that threaten to push the film over the edge into full on camp, like Marisa’s excitable and possibly crazy mother and the archetypal irascible police chief’s Mentat-style eyebrows, but Alligator has something that a lot of genre satires don’t: respect for the source material that is being referenced. The Jaws parallels mentioned above are the most obvious, as the film is unabashedly aping that film’s style and plotline right down to mayoral corruption, here the result of the unnamed mayor’s relationship with the pharmaceutical chief whose company’s experiments indirectly led to the alligator’s mutation rather than an attempt to preserve the summer tourism economy boom. There’s a lot here that’s played for laughs, but the film manages to do so without irrevocably breaking the tension, which is a refreshing change of pace from other pastiche parodies. Even if we disregard contemporary rubbish parodies like Date Movie or Meet the Spartans and only consider genre classics, great movies like Airplane! and The Naked Gun don’t really work as legitimate examples of disaster film or cop drama when divested of their parodic elements; in contrast, even if you were to somehow never seen or heard of Jaws, Alligator would still hold up as a surprisingly decent example of the “giant animal” horror subgenre.

I also particularly liked that there was a reason given for why Ramón was so large, and that this reason tied this mutation back to human involvement. There’s nothing about Jaws that makes him a victim at all, but Ramón is surprisingly sympathetic for a swamp monster that’s literally a dinosaur. We see that the environment he was born into would have eventually led to him being wrestled by humans regardless of whether or not your Marisa had taken him as a pet; he was displaced from his natural habitat and transplanted to a city sewer, where the only food he was able to find consisted of castoff, hormone-injected puppy corpses. Everything that mankind reaps in this movie is, as Brandon points out, sown by them, even though a few innocent people get caught up in the midst of his vengeful rampage. Jaws, on the other hand, never explains how the titular shark managed to grow to such an absurd size (ten feet longer than the average male Great White) or why he has such an insatiable hunger for human flesh; this doesn’t make this a better film than Jaws at all, as that movie is at least partially about the terror of the unknown, but it does add a different element to Alligator that differentiates it from being a straightforward rip-off. It’s not clear how or why Ramón knows to go to the Slade mansion and devour guests (or why he knows to specifically target the lead scientist and Slade), but that doesn’t matter. At least the film didn’t take the same approach as the novelization of Jaws: The Revenge, which indirectly gave us the term “Voodoo Shark.”

One of the things that amused me most about this movie was the way that everyone, hero and villain alike, had nothing but disdain for the journalistic community, and the primary antagonistic reporter, Kemp, obliged them by being as weaselly as possible. What did you make of this element, Britnee? And, further, were you creeped out by the relationship between Robert Forster and Robin Riker, given that he is supposed to be roughly 40 and her character is at most 26?

Britnee: Before getting into the ridiculousness that is Kemp’s character, I just want to point out how insane his eyebrows are. Of course, Kemp wasn’t the only person in this movie with giant caterpillar eyebrows. As Boomer pointed out, Chief Clark had crazy eyebrows too! Maybe I’m overthinking this similarity, but there could be a possible good versus evil eyebrow battle occurring deep within the film. If so, it’s obvious that Chief Clark takes the cake.

Kemp’s character serves as the stereotypical reporter that would do anything to get a good story, even if it means exploiting someone’s personal tragedy. Of course, we know that not every journalist is as savage as Kemp, but I feel as though the film was attempting to convey some sort of message to the audience in regards to the authenticity of mass media. I can’t help but think of the title of one of my favorite Barbra Streisand songs, “Don’t Believe What You Read.” Not all media outlets are necessarily reliable, and Kemp is a representation of the deceitful side of the world of journalism.

As for the intimate relationship between Robert Forester and Robin Ryker’s characters, it did throw me a little off-guard at first. Mainly because Robert Forester gives off some really intense dad vibes. Marisa’s dad was a total jerk that flushed Ramón down the toilet, so she obviously had some underlying daddy issues. If David’s character was played by another actor, such as Harrison Ford, I think their love affair would have sat better with me. Honestly, I love a good age-gap relationship in movies. Harold and Maude and White Palace are two fantastic, unconventional romantic films that come to mind, and Alligator could’ve been on their level if Robert Forester wasn’t so dad-like.

Brandon, watching the film again recently got me to focus a little more on the terror that is Colonel Brock (Henry Silva). While he is definitely one of the film’s villains, he is probably one of the funniest characters in the movie. The scene in which he is awkwardly flirting with the television reporter was by far one of the funniest scenes in Alligator. Did you find Colonel Brock to be as comedic as I did? If so, did his unique brand of humor add value to the film? Would a more serious character have been a better choice?

Brandon: I love the cartoonish cad energy the dastardly hunter Colonel Brock brings to the film. He struck me as an odd combination of Jumanji‘s safari hunter Van Pelt & Empire Records‘s Neil Diamond surrogate Rex Manning, a sleazeball dandy plucked directly from either a children’s film or a 50s big studio epic. I also love the transparency of his presence within the film. Once Ramón dispenses with the crooked pet store owner & the evil science lab technicians, there aren’t many potential victims for his vengeful reptilian chomping. Colonel Brock is a perfectly calibrated last minute injection for the film because he gives the audience one more sleazebag to want to see dead. Ramón, of course, wastes no time obliging that bloodthirst and swallows the self-important goon whole in spectacular fashion. I could see how someone treating the film with a more serious tone could want more significant villainy that what Brock delivers, but I’m perfectly happy with his whole silly ass deal.

As much as I’m willing to view this movie through the trashy goofery of a camp cinema lens, there’s no denying that it’s a largely grotesque, hateful work. The alligator attacks start immediately from the outset & upon watching a man’s limbs ripped to shreds in the opening seconds a little girl wants to take one of the little beasts home. Once flushed down the toilet, Ramón‘s newfound home is a disgusting lair of trash & human filth somehow made worse by a greedy scientist lab willing to abuse & discard puppies in the most heartless way imaginable. At one point a mentally unstable suicide bomber is ridiculed & turned into a police station punchline. At some points it’s even difficult to rejoice in Ramón‘s revenge on the wicked because his means are so brutal (see: him devouring a child). I love the film’s more cartoonish, sillier moments (there’s a genuine star wipe transition between shots at one point, for God’s sake), but there’s so much ugliness mixed in that the clashing tones are downright jarring.

Boomer, is there an particular moment of shocking alligator mayhem or cruel human folly that sticks out to you as especially ugly that we haven’t covered here yet? There was so much nastiness going around that we surely haven’t touched on it all.

Boomer: We’ve already talked about the devoured child, which was the big violent moment that I didn’t expect. For the most part, Ramón was sticking to either enacting vengeance on his oppressors in a way that was, conceptually, more human than animal, or against people foolish enough to wander into his lair, which is a very animalistic and understandable reaction (RIP Officer Rookie, we hardly knew ye). And Brandon really has a point with his notation that the people in the film are cruel and hateful, like the police officers who mock the erstwhile suicide bomber; in fact, the general lack of empathy among the human characters in this film is what stood out to me more than Ramón‘s appetite and the things he did to sate it.

What stood out to me were the vendors who appear at the site of a mangling where police officers are tossing depth charges into a small body of water while trying to get the gator’s attention. It seems that, in universe, the peddlers of cheap wares have named Ramón “Alexander the Alligator” and arrive at the scene of a horrible tragedy in an attempt to capitalize on it with foam hats and plastic gator trinkets. It’s been a long time since I rewatched Jaws, so I’m not sure whether or not this particular element was included there or not, but this capitalistic opportunism in the face of human misery shocked me much more than the casual violence of Ramón, whose swathe of killings are motivated more or less by base instinct. It’s merely one more layer on this film, reminding us that people are the real monsters.



Boomer: I notice that we mentioned that this film takes place in Chicago, and the Wikipedia page for the film also states that this is the case. This is never mentioned in the film, however; I kept trying to figure out where the film was set, and even googled “Marquette Place” when a sign with that name showed up on screen. Apparently, we only know this because it is mentioned in the director’s commentary. Before seeing the movie, I always assumed it was set in New York, which is probably the result of having long ago seen the Growing Pains episode in which Ben makes a movie that is, essentially, Alligator.

Britnee: During the scenes in David’s apartment, there are prints on the wall by Ramón Santiago (obvious inspiration for the alligator’s name). I was unaware of Santiago’s work prior to noticing the prints in the film, and I have to say that this guy has some phenomenal art. Not only is his art featured in the background of Alligator, but his art can also be found in the insanity that is the 1981 film Tattoo. According to Santiago’s website, he stated, “my paintings are what dreams are made of.” I would say that’s a pretty accurate description of his work. Unfortunately, I haven’t stumbled across an Santiago gator paintings yet.

Brandon: Alligator is a near-perfect slice of nasty 70s schlock (despite its early 80s release date) that begs to be loved for its faults instead of in spite of them. However, I do think that Britnee was onto something when she was wishing for a rewrite where a more solid connection between the now-monstrously large Ramón & the adult Marissa was established. However, instead of them sharing a moment of recognition at the film’s climax, I would’ve somehow implied that the body parts first discovered in the sewer belonged to Marissa’s father. Instead of an unidentified victim kicking off the police investigation that drives Ramón out of the sewers, Ramón killing Marissa’s father would both help explain her mother’s deranged state & add another name to Ramón‘s revenge list. One of the most fascinating concepts at work in Alligator is the idea of its titular monster intentionally seeking revenge on those who’ve wronged him, so it would’ve been incredible to see him devour the wicked brute that flushed him down the toilet as a baby. I enjoy the movie’s misshapen, incomplete feeling in general, but I do think that detail alteration would’ve improved the significance of Ramón‘s first recorded kill, however on-the-nose it would’ve been.

Upcoming Movies of the Month:
July: Boomer
presents Citizen Ruth (1996)
Alli presents Black Moon (1975)
September: Brandon presents The Box (2009)

-The Swampflix Crew