Friday, July 8, 2011

Second Age Reviews: Alligator

Some movies are rather obscure about their titles. For example only about two minutes of Fargo takes place in Fargo, and the closest thing we come to a blade in Blade Runner is the nail that Roy drives through his hand. Some movies, on the other hand, are a little more upfront about their titles. You go into a movie called Alligator, there's about one thing you can expect from it.  
The plot is concerned with a cop, haunted by the death of his partner, who is investigating recent deaths in the sewer lines, only to discover that, I'm sorry do you care? Cause I don't. Oh don't get me wrong, I'm as big a fan of story and characterization as the next man, probably more so. But in this case, it all seems rather pointless. There are two things a movie like this needs to do right, it needs to have an Alligator and it needs to have the alligator kill people. Sure it'd be nice if we had interesting characters like in Jaws or a solid story like in Jurassic Park but that's not why we're here.
And on that note, while the film maybe takes just a tiny bit too long getting to it, once we finally get the alligator on screen, once it gets to the point where it's stopped setting shit up and just gets down to the monster killing people, it's pretty damn good. Then nature of it's title monster means that we get a fun mix of sewer sequences, underwater stalking and just straight monster mash. Of course the size of the damn thing means that they can't really have quiet sneaking scenes, something which the movie tries hard to work around, with mixed success.
The flip side of the kills being the draw power is that the kills need to be interesting for us to want to stick around, Scream taught me that years ago, and while it's difficult to keep 'An alligator eats somebody' interesting, the film mostly succeeds. Notably two of the oldest genre rules, that pets never die and kids never die, both get broken in this film, which is good for keeping us on our toes.
Of course, there is the aspect of this film that is intending to be something of a tongue in cheek parody. These can range from High Plains Drifter where it's actually got some clever spins on the concept and a certain level of self-awareness, to the Scream series, where all it is is an excuse to use tired genre cliches and pass it off by making glib references to it. And while it never quite attains the level of High Plains Drifter or even Burn After Reading, Alligator is in the former category. The dialogue and minor characterization are just silly enough to make me buy that it's intentional and while it's all very cliched, no one ever makes any winking references to it being cliched, which is usually a sign of trying too hard.
Okay, I don't want to oversell it, it's certainly not without it's issues. The Alligator is apparently immune to bullets for example, for no other reason than it would end the movie too quickly if it wasn't. As you can probably guess, the plot and characters are absolute tripe, but that's not such a bad thing that it ruins the film. And while the mechanical alligator is great, any time they try to use another effect, mostly puppets or the actual animal on a scale set, it looks ludicrously bad. Carnosaur bad.
At the end of the day, my statement earlier is accurate. If you go into a movie called Alligator you know exactly what you want out of it. And if that's what you're looking for a movie about a giant Alligator eating people, you can do much worse than Alligator.
A quick side note before I go. Since it looks like I'll be leaving for N'Orleans on the 13th or 14th, odds are I'll be missing the next film at the Avon, one which I've reviewed already anyway (The Big Lebowksi if you were wondering), I won't be putting a next time on this one. I'll let you know what the next one I'll be seeing is when I know it myself.
Elessar is a 21 year old Alaskan born cinephile and he still laughs at the absurd amount of racism in calling the black guys in the movie the 'Natives.'

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