Alligator II: The Mutation (1991)

Theatrical Poster (USA #2)
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Connections: Alligator

A giant alligator makes a city lake his new feeding ground and must be stopped before he breaks out into the surroundings. --IMDb
Review by Chad
Added: August 21, 2011
I found myself in the mood for a "giant animal tears shit up" film today, and it came down to either alligators or sharks. Not wanting to ruin my appetite for the upcoming Shark Night, I went with alligators. So, having boiled it down to those murderous man-eaters, I thought that it was only fitting to pop in the sequel to 1980's Alligator and see how the sequel fared. It was... well, it was interesting. Yes, I can safely say that it was interesting if nothing else.

You've seen this storyline before, but it involves a detective named David Hodges (Joseph Bologna) who has a bad feeling about a pair of missing bums and a bloody foot floating in the local lake. You see, a crooked investor named Vinnie Brown (Steve Railsback) has bought a huge chunk of land right next to the river, is running the local Mexican population out by shady means in order to make this a tourist attraction, and is planning the grand opening - read, huge party - for the coming weekend. Oh, did I mention that the missing bums were last seen in the sewers leading into this lake, and did I forget to mention that the bloody foot was bobbing around in this very lake?

David's wife, a lovely scientist named Christine (Dee Wallace), eventually discovers saliva on the foot and discovers that there is an alligator in the lake. That is no shock to us at home, but what is shocking is the fact that she also unveils a twist: this is no ordinary alligator, and in fact, it has ingested some experimental chemicals that turns it into a near-invincible killing machine. Where did those chemicals come from? Ten points if you said "Vinnie" by way of the corrupt mayor (Bill Daily).

When Vinnie discovers the threat in the lake, he decides to ignore it and continue with his plans for a party, but he does call in a team of Cajun gator-hunters led by Hawk Hawkins (Richard Lynch) and his boy Billy (Kane Hodder). Unfortunately, the Cajuns underestimate their foe and don't do much more than piss it off. Now, it will be up to David, his wife, a rookie cop named Harmon (Woody Brown), and the mayor's daughter (Holly Gagnier) to track down and destroy the alligator before it devours everyone attending the party.

Maybe you caught it, but if not, Alligator II is a huge rip-off of Jaws, only, with an alligator in place of a shark. All of the major plot points from Spielberg's flick are present and accounted for, only, everything is done on a lesser scale. There are a handful of attacks here but minimal blood and gore, the gator itself looks average enough but by no means "great", and for a giant killer animal movie, there is far too much emphasis on the humans and not enough on the gator itself. I wasn't expecting high-brow entertainment from a movie like this, but I did expect an enjoyable b-movie.

Joseph Bologna is entertaining enough in the lead role and Woody Brown is only slightly below average as his sidekick, but neither of them are charismatic enough to carry a movie when it focuses so much on them and not enough on the giant gator. Watching Hodges kick some ass and witnessing the two men bicker and fight with one another was entertaining to a degree at first, but I thought that this was going to be the setup for the movie as a whole, not the majority of the running time. I did enjoy Richard Lynch as the Cajun gator hunter, I thought that Steve Railsback made a great villain, and Dee Wallace was great as always, but these three people are merely supporting actors and none of them get any considerable amount of screen time.

Really, that's the fatal flaw in the film. You don't pick a movie like this up for entertaining character studies or witty one-liners, you pick it up to see an alligator tear shit up and kill a bunch of people before being put down by the heroes. That is a very simple concept, but it is not followed here. Perhaps this decision was made due to the mediocre nature of the animatronic alligator. A real gator was used in certain scenes, but obviously, they had to use a fake for the man-eating scenes, and this fake looks... well, fake. It is not horrible and it is far superior to some of the CGI garbage I have seen over the years, but it is certainly not anything great.

Alligator II is not a horrible film. Even though it focuses too much on the humans and not enough on the gator, the acting did keep me semi-entertained throughout the running time, and even though the gator didn't look amazing, it still looked good enough to sell the story. I would have liked to have seen more of it and more kills, but as a simple b-movie to kill a Sunday morning, I can't say that the film was downright horrible. Average, yes, and I'm not going to recommend that you rush out to track a copy down, but you could do much worse even in the "killer alligator" genre. 5/10.
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