Alligator (1980)

[6.5]

Robert Forster (Jackie Brown, The Black Hole) stars as a police detective in this better-than-average monster movie about a giant alligator that terrorizes the Chicago suburbs. Screenwriter John Sayles (Passion Fish, Lone Star) probably deserves most of the credit, giving Forster and co-stars just enough character and backstory to elevate them above the two-dimensional pawns you usually find in these flicks. He also makes us feel for the monster — a pet baby alligator who gets flushed down a toilet, surviving in the sewers on lab animals injected with growth hormone.

Director Lewis Teague (Cujo, Cat’s Eye) keeps the pacing brisk and delivers satisfying scenes of mayhem and mutilation, aided by remarkably good practical effects and marvelous editing by Larry Bock and Ron Medico. Somewhat lacking in suspense and atmosphere, Alligator is really more of a tense police procedural than a traditional horror movie. However it lands on the genre spectrum, though, the talent involved deliver on the promise of exploitation at a level of quality well above the norm. With Robin Riker, Michael Gazzo, Perry Lang, and Henry Silva.