Thursday, October 6, 2016

HubrisWeen 2016, Day 1: Alligator II: The Mutation (1991)

I highly doubt that anyone would be surprised to hear that my favorite Jaws rip-off is Alligator. Alligators are my favorite animals and the script by John Sayles is almost as cracker-jack as his script for the equally delightful Piranha.

I'm far from alone in my love of the film, thankfully, and apparently it must have done pretty well for someone to decide that making a sequel eleven years later was a good idea.

Unfortunately for me, dear reader, I love you. And love means knowing that a review of a movie I enjoyed watching is rarely as fun to read as a review of a movie I did not--so rather than review the good movie, I shall be taking a look at its "late to the party" sequel.

Sadly, I am not 1000 Misspent Hours and Counting, nor am I Micro-Brewed Reviews. So while I would love to give as detailed a history of the decision process behind this film's creation as either of them would probably be able to do, my cursory Google searches are all the research I intend to do. Therefore all I can glean is that this was not only released over a decade after the original but direct to video.

Prior to watching the film for this review, the only exposure I had to it came when ABC aired it as the Saturday night movie--probably a year after its initial release, actually. Even though I had not seen the original, I decided to watch this one because, come on, giant killer alligator! I was left with a rather blase impression of the film, overall, though I wouldn't say I disliked it--but I also struggled to judge it in its edited TV form. However, I never felt I needed to give it another shot...

...until now. I'd say it was fitting, but sadly it's been way more than eleven years.

We open with a roving POV cam making its way through misty water choked with reeds. Nearby, a rat struggles to stay afloat while clinging to a rib cage from an animal slightly larger than itself. This is our first clue that we're in a sewer, before the POV cam eats the rat and we cut to two goons staring down a manhole opening.

Helpfully, the two are discussing the fact that they are currently pouring toxic waste down into the sewer. One wonders if pouring experimental chemicals down into the sewer is a good idea, but his compatriot tells him if he has questions he can ask Vinnie, and gestures to a sleepy looking man in a suit (Steve Railsback!) standing scant feet away. The opening credits have helpfully told us his last name is Brown, and apparently his sleepy visage is enough to scare the one goon into compliance.

Mind you, Steve Railsback can certainly be intimidating, but he sure isn't in this bit.

Elsewhere, two guys in hipwaders and dive masks decide to do some night fishing among some reeds. One catches a fish, but then the POV cam catches up to him. We see at this point that the film has apparently decided more on the Jaws 2 approach, as we see shots of the alligator's jaws chomping its victim. His companion attempts to retreat, but he is also snatched up in the gator's jaws. After the attack, his severed foot floats off in its boot.

The next morning, an alarm goes off in a suburban home and David Hodges (Joseph Bologna) knocks the alarm clock off his night stand and nearly knocks his revolver off it, too. Seems a poor place to keep it, but what do I know? He hears something break downstairs and grabs said gun--only to discover, after an unnecessarily protracted buid-up--that it was just a tape recorder intended to lure him downstairs where he could be surprised with "Happy Birthday" balloons and a cake with a wolf in a cop uniform labeled "Solo Lobo." After a woman's voice on the tape player wishes him a happy birthday, he finds a VHS tape labeled "Play Me."

On the tape his wife, Christine Hodges (Dee Wallace!) and son, J.J. (Trevor Eyster) wish him a happy birthday, while lamenting that he needs to switch off of night shifts because they never see him--and Christine makes a few too many obvious sexual innuendoes with their son in earshot. As Hodges starts to light up a cigarette, the joke is telegraphed a mile away that his son is about to congratulate him for quitting smoking on his birthday. So Hodges puts away the cigarette as his wife tells him that their son is going to visit her parents that evening so she and Hodges can bone later in peace.

A little girl, meanwhile, directs a cop to where she found the severed foot from earlier floating in a pond and the cop hilariously tries to fish it out with a handy palm frond. Brown, meanwhile, is meeting with investors on a rooftop, wearing his finest slicked back evil businessman mullet as he gloats over how profitable the properties are. The businessmen are on board and assure him their money will be well in escrow by Monday unless something happens over the weekend. Brown tempts fate by asking what could happen.

At the local police station, we learn that Hodges is the kind of plainclothes detective--and they are some hideous clothes, indeed--who parks wherever he feels like it and is kind of a dick to his uniformed brethren. However, he also speaks Spanish and steps in when the desk cop tells two distraught women to come back when they can speak English. Just not being a racist prick would in theory be enough, but it turns out Hodges knows the two women. The younger woman to tell Hodges that the issue is that her father and uncle didn't come home last night and it's unlike them to be gone all night. Where were they? Oh, they went fishing.

Hodges goes to another part of the precinct to find anything on the two men. There's not much in the official file, but the officer who gives it to Hodges, Officer Harmon (Woody Brown), does let him know of a possible lead: a boot washed up 300 yards from a well-known boat house--and the foot was still in it. Harmon volunteers to go with Hodges, but the detective is long gone. A nearby cop mocks the rookie, saying working with Hodges never ends well.

The coroner shows Hodges a folder of body parts in similar condition to the foot--all cleanly severed by what he thinks are the teeth of a big animal. Hodges suggests it could be machinery, but the coroner shows him a microscope and tells him there was no evidence of oils or metals that would indicate machinery--but there did appear to be some chemical compound full of amino acids, which could be saliva. The coroner doesn't know what to make of it, which is why he sent to Hodges's wife at the University Lab.

Surrounded by beakers of colored liquids, so we know she's doing Science, Christine picks up her husband's phone call. The two flirt briefly and then Hodges asks about what she's found out. She hasn't found out anything, certainly not anything useful. She can't even say if it's saliva or not. She suggests the coroner test the lake to determine what the chemical is. Then she and Hodges hash out their evening plans for his birthday while soft romantic music plays. Can we get on with the killer alligator already?

Hodges hangs up and then the coroner advises him that he just pulled the files to see if anything else unusual was going on--three "derelicts" had vanished recently from downtown, and he draws a connection to the two disappearing brothers in Regent Park because the city's water, power, and sewage systems are connected there. Hodges thinks the lake should be investigated more closely, then.

On his way to somewhere, Hodges walks up to a Latina woman having an argument with a goon in a business suit outside a trailer beneath a "Vincent Brown Realty" banner. The woman implies that the two missing brothers were killed by Brown because they wouldn't sell, and when she sees Hodges she calls him "Lobo" and implores him to do something. While he tells her that, sadly, there isn't anything he can do--the woman's child loses his beach ball when it rolls into the lake. Seeing the alligator snout that drags the ball under the water, the child cries out in fright. Hodges comforts the kid by giving him gum and then asks the woman where the brothers might have been fishing. She points him to the reeds nearby and then leads her son away, while Hodges recovers a chunk of beach ball from the water.

Coming home, he finds that Christine left his steak in the pan because he was so late and it's now a hockey puck. While he tries to enjoy the chewy briquette, he hands her the folder of crime scene photos. She quickly agrees with the coroner that an animal did it, and what's more she's sure it was a crocodile or an alligator. Hodges asks her if an alligator living in the sewer is possible and she mentions it's happened before, in New York--though those alligators were small and malnourished.

And here's where anyone paying attention realizes that this is the kind of lazy horror sequel that is more or less just a remake of the first film. Because you can't expect me to believe that a 35-foot mutant alligator that went on the rampage in Chicago wouldn't have stuck in the minds of anyone alive to hear about it on the national news.

At any rate, disappointing his wife in an apparently typical fashion, he decides he needs to rush out to the office to advise that there may be a killer alligator on the loose and needs her to figure out how a sewer gator got big enough to be deadly. He tells her she's beautiful on the way out, but it doesn't help much.

In an odd bit, we see Hodges dancing with a woman outside her taco truck before Chief Speed (Brock Peters!) pulls up in a cruiser. Sorry, but that is a ridiculous name and I've been thinking that since the opening credits. Oof, and Brock Peters does his dead level best with the dialogue in this scene but it's dreadful stuff. Sure enough, Chief Speed is skeptical of the alligator theory and he refuses to let Hodges do anything to stop the huge party that Brown and the Mayor will be throwing over the weekend because it's best for the town, this is the "last last time" he'll be warning Hodges, etc. Speed does give Hodges 12 hours to see what turns up, and Hodges tells him he's running over to Brown's country club to see what he can find out there.

In what I'm sure is meant to be an inversion of expectations, the fancy country club that Hodges pulls his POS car up to is actually hosting a WWF-style wrestling match. Right down to wrestlers being flung onto the spectators' tables. Brown is watching with the Mayor (Bill Daily) and he casts a venomous side-eye at Hodges when the cop shows up to take the Mayor aside and tell him about the possible man-eating alligator running loose under the city. Brown overhears the part about Hodges telling the mayor to cancel the party and bullies the mayor into not only refusing to cancel the party, but to order the nearby Harmon to place Hodges under house arrest. Brown even orders Harmon directly to cuff himself to Hodges. Brown then insists he'll take care of the alligator himself and orders his accented bodyguard to find him an alligator hunter tonight.

Hodges tricks Harmon into taking him to the men's room, which oddly requires quarters to use the stall and somehow manages to not only get loose, but to cuff Harmon and leave him in the stall. He tells the cops outside to check on a weirdo in the men's room, but they get sidetracked by the arrival of the mayor's daughter, Sheri (Holly Gagnier), who nearly runs into Hodges with her car as she pulls up. Sheri is actually there to confront her father in the lobby and to beg him to stop being such a toady for Brown, and she refuses to leave when he orders her to--in fact she even goes to sit at Brown's table.

This is all played up as a big dramatic moment, but it's also kind of hilarious and since John Sayles didn't write this I think it's safe to say the comedy is unintentional. Also, why is the movie trying to make us care about such lazy stock characters?!

Hilariously, Sheri and Brown exchange dialogue about how his favorite wrestler is about to take the stage, though unfortunately he's going to lose. Sheri comments that it sounds fixed and Brown smarmily replies that it is. Come on, filmmakers, that's not a grand point about corruption--this is professional wrestling that they're watching. I think even in 1991 most people knew it wasn't real.

Oh, wait, we were supposed to be watching a killer alligator movie! Luckily, the movie remembers that now as a homeless man stationed next to a trashcan fire in the sewer calls out to his friend, Otis, only to hear his friend cry out suddenly. Taking a torch into the tunnel to investigate, he suddenly sees the alligator come charging towards him, with his dead companion in its jaws. The homeless man can only stare in horror at the sight before him, And then, from an angle that makes no sense, the alligator's tail lashes out and slaps the guy through the air and into the wall. In order for that to work, the alligator would have had to have its body bent into a U-shape and be moving sideways through the sewer,

Poor Otis, dead and gone / Left me here to sing his song...
Naturally, the homeless man being tossed against the sewer wall is merged with a body slam in the wrestling match because this movie thinks it's clever. Brown tries to chat up Sheri, but she's not having it. When he gets creepy and grabby, she punches him in the nose and storms out. The two cops escorting her compliment her on the punch and then hear Harmon calling for help from the men's room. Believe it or not, this is so Harmon and Sheri can have a "meet cute" when she follows the cops into the restroom and turns out to be the only one who has a quarter. She eagerly goes to work unlocking him from the toilet just in time to have a female TV reporter and cameraman oddly appear in the bathroom just to get a shot of them in...a compromising position?

No, seriously, what are they going to sell that as? "Mayor's Daughter's Sex Game Exposed: Sheri Anderson caught kneeling next to fully dressed police officer cuffed to a toilet while two other cops watch!"

Meanwhile, as Chief Speed and the Mayor are confronted by an Internal Affairs guy warning that Hodges's badge is to be pulled pending a psych evaluation and Harmon's is to be pulled pending a competency hearing, Hodges meets up with a young Latino man named Reuben (Julian Reyes). We're clearly supposed to think Reuben is a gang leader at first, but he's actually just a youth leader. He tells Hodges about how the fish in the lake started dying off after Brown moved in and that the surviving fish were big but no good to eat. However, Reuben thinks Hodges is messing with him when he tells about the alligator in the lake and he takes off with his friends.

Leaving the lake, Hodges hears a radio report about the homeless man and rushes to the scene. Naturally, Hodges knows the old man (for a city cop, he sure seems to know everyone on a ridiculously personal level) and assures him he won't think whatever he says happened was just "the DTs." The old man tells him it was a huge crocodile, so big it was using Otis as a toothpick.

Chief Speed, meanwhile, is arguing with the Mayor about how Hodges was treated. Ultimately they agree that Speed will give the Mayor 24 hours and if the hunters haven't found the gator by then, he's closing off the park. Speed then orders Harmon into his office, briefly stopping Sheri from coming to Harmon's aid since she's like family to the Chief. Speed tells Harmon he's suspended, but when Hodges calls to demand a lot of ammo to go after the gator, Speed agrees and when Hodges demands one good man to help, Speed nominates Harmon. Neither man is happy about that, but that's obviously because it's a stupid plan.

Harmon goes to get drunk and Sheri offers to join him. He rebuffs her at first but then warms to her advances by asking if her pants are tight enough. When she, understandably, asks what the hell he means he asks, "Didn't anybody ever tell you you've got a great backyard?" What? What? Amazingly, this works and after some inane banter about how he can "score points" but can't "score", they're off to drink in front of a stuffed marlin and trade father grievances. Given Harmon's dad used to beat him, I think he wins out. Sheri apparently agrees and kisses him.

And then things get weird, because they kiss outside of Harmon's apartment--only to be rudely interrupted by Hodges, who is already inside. Hodges berates Harmon for being drunk and then throws him up against Harmon's jukebox. Somehow this progresses to Hodges informing Harmon he's no longer suspended but has to go alligator hunting with him right now. Harmon goes to shower, while Hodges apologizes to Sheri for interrupting their date and then tries to kindly get rid of her.

Boy, Alligator sure had a tight script, didn't it? Is it too late to scuttle this review and go watch that one instead?

Hodges pulls up to what I assume is the University Labs to meet with Christine. Oh, and to reveal that Sheri accompanied Harmon and Hodges after all. Christine reminds Hodges of how they thought a company called Future Chemicals had been illegally experimenting with growth hormones but couldn't prosecute. Well, it seems Future dumped some of its test animals into the sewers and the result must be the mutant alligator. She warns the creature is a surging adrenaline-fueled machine...and that she's coming along. Christine knows more about the creature than Hodges does and as Sheri points out, the men may need them to help with manhole covers if nothing else.

Well, we're 45 minutes in--time for the comedy rednecks to show up! In this case, it's Hawk Hawkins (Richard Lynch!) and his posse, which includes Kane Hodder, of all people. They arrive at an outdoor patio where Speed, Brown, and the Mayor are waiting and we discover that Richard Lynch is trying for a Cajun accent as he introduces himself. Somehow Brown's bodyguard and Hawk take a dislike to each other and before you know it Hawk is throwing a knife at the guy and barely missing. Speed calms everything down and gives the sewer maps to Hawk and assures them that since they know how to handle gators, the cops will let them do it the way that works for them.

Hodges and Harmon are walking through the sewers, meanwhile, and keeping in contact with Christine on the surface with walkie talkies. Harmon chooses that moment to reveal to Hodges that he's claustrophobic and then we see that the alligator is swimming behind them. This is a shot that is trying hard to be effective but fails horribly since thanks to either the size of the model gator or the blocking of the shot, our monster gator has suddenly shrunk to half its supposed size. The two figure out they're being followed and run down the tunnel, only to find their path blocked by vertical bars. Hodges helps Harmon through a hole in the wall to an adjacent tunnel and then discovers his shotgun is useless against the oncoming rubber monster.

After diving through the same hole, Hodges tosses a grenade back through and it is laughably ineffective. (Unsurprising, since he and Harmon took shelter by crouching against the wall) The alligator reacts by shaking its head in rage and slapping the wall with its tail, which Hodges somehow correctly interprets as the beast breaking through the wall with no evidence that that was happening when he said it. Hodges plants a dynamite trap as the pair run further down the tunnel, and after the puppet head smashes through the wall we see a live alligator on a miniature set following them. Sheltering in a smaller side tunnel Hodges and Harmon wonder aloud if the beast can survive two sticks of dynamite. The answer turns out to be yes.

"That tickled."

Harmon and Hodges admit defeat for the moment and flee the sewer. Hodges asks if Christine has any idea what could stop the alligator and she replies that she does but she isn't sure if it would even work--and then it occurs to Hodges that they need to find the alligator hunters and warn them of what they're facing. Luckily, Speed pulls up just then. When Hodges says they need the Army, Speed replies they can't call in the Army and the National Guard is out of state on maneuvers. However, Harmon suggests the Army ordnance depot must have something they could use. Speed advises he'll try it and then he drives Hodges and Harmon away to find Hawk while Christine heads to the lab.

In the sewer, Hawk and his crew find the alligator's lair and their joking about gator gumbo and "laissez les bons temps rouler" stop when they also find severed body parts and barrels labeled "Future Chemicals." Hodges radios Hawk just then, trying to warn him, but Hawk is stubborn and assures him that they can handle the gator but they plan to come up anyway. Well, that plan accelerates when the alligator shows up.

Hawk's shotgun is useless and while everyone else makes it to the ladder, the alligator manages to tear the ladder off the wall and drop them all into the water for easy pickings--except for the one guy at the top of the ladder. While his companions are devoured, he makes it out of the manhole with the help of Hodges and Harmon. Hodges then grabs a rope and goes back in to rescue Hawk while Harmon and Speed assist and Brown looks on with his bodyguard and the Mayor. Hodges just grabs Hawk in time and they narrowly escape the alligator's jaws.

So this means I've reviewed movies where Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees are eaten by killer crocodilians.
Well, Hawk admits Hodges was right but he isn't out of the game, since now it's personal--the gator ate his brother and two of his closest friends, after all. Hodges accepts Hawk's help but snubs Brown and accuses Brown of dumping his chemicals in the sewer and Hawk backs that up with what he saw. Brown sneers that he'll have to prove it, whereupon Hodges asks if Speed contacted Colonel Mayhew--and Speed rightly points out that he hasn't had a chance to do that, but he will send a helicopter to the ordnance depot.

Then, oddly, Brown agrees with Hodges that the park needs to be shut down and that he'll cancel the planned carnival at once. Speed refuses and says that the police will see to that. Brown and his bodyguard take off with the Mayor at that, while Speed heads back to the precinct after telling Hodges that "this is the last last last last time" and to keep the alligator from reaching the lake in order to buy him some time. Okay, that line was dumb enough before but it makes zero sense in this context. At any rate, Hawk tells Hodges that the gator's territory has been disturbed so it's likely to go on a rampage now. Both men agree that the lake is the best bet for where it will go and they need to stop that.

Meanwhile, to the Mayor's horror and shock since I guess he didn't realize the film's only black character had just pissed off the human villain, Brown decides to run Speed off the road by forcing him to drive into a makeshift ramp left by road construction--making Speed's car flip over and over before ending upside down at the bottom of a hill. The Mayor oddly just responds to witnessing a recent business partner deliberately kill a decades-long friend by clutching his head and repeating, "Oh my God." Way to handle the situation, your honor. Also, I like how this development means that Speed din't bother to use the radio in his cruiser to communicate that the lake should be closed before he was killed.

Meanwhile, the carnival is in full swing, which we are made aware of by cutting to a local DJ broadcasting from the event as he tells us that Brown is offering to pay cash money to people with homes in the area at this event. Is it too much to hope he shares the fate of the DJ in Humanoids From The Deep? Hilariously the film cuts away 3 seconds into the obviously made-up song he introduces, lest they have to have more than an intro for it.

In the sewer, Hodges, Harmon, and Hawk are working out where the gator will go. Hawk's instinct tells him both the most likely place and that the gator is already way ahead of them. Hodges suggests they need to cut the reptile off, then by dynamiting the side tunnels. Meanwhile, Brown is furious that almost nobody is attending his carnival and orders his bodyguard to spread the word that everything there is free and that he's offering cash to anyone who sells, and then he yells at the DJ to do a better job spreading that message, too. This strategy seems to be just wasting money to me, but I'm not a sleazy real estate tycoon.

Brown goes to visit the trailer from earlier, passing by Reuben and his comrades hanging out with a boombox. The guy at the trailer says they were doing good business until Reuben and his friends showed up, so Brown whirls on the youths and tells them they'd better be gone when he returns or there'll be trouble. I don't blame Reuben and his lads for being unbothered by this threat. Brown then visits the Mayor, moping on a park bench and drags him away so they can talk.

Meanwhile, Hawk is in the sewer placing a bomb that Hodges made while Hodges and Harmon wait topside. Hawk sees the alligator approaching him--and I note once again that this film utterly fails to make the footage of a real gator on miniature sets look like anything but exactly that, when the original film was largely able to pull off the same effects way better--and he sets the timer for 20 seconds and climbs up out of the hole. The three take shelter behind a dumpster but the alligator eats the bomb and...this somehow makes it not go off. Based on the dialogue, it's because the bite destroyed the detonator.

Of course, this means their killer alligator is now also a walking bomb. Hodges suggests they split up to try and stop the gator from reaching the lake, but just then Christine drives up and hands Hodges a speargun filled with chemicals. She's vague on what they are and when Hodges asks if they might make the alligator explode she can't answer that. How exactly would an injection make it explode? Harmon objects that the gator is too well-armored for that, but Hawk points out that there is a weak spot under the jaw. Of course, that means getting way too close.

After a comedy bit where she stops him from smoking a cigarette, Hodges sends Christine (and Sheri, who has had nothing to contribute to this conversation) to make sure that the lake has been cleared while he heads back into the sewer with Harmon and Hawk to chase the gator. Naturally, we see the carnival is now a happening spot as a Cyndi Lauper wannabe in shutter shades crones a generic pop song from a stage and all the expected trappings of a carnival in a movie are displayed.

Hilariously, Brown and the Mayor are on a Ferris wheel where the Mayor is growing a conscience. Brown rants about how everything they can see is all his and he's building an empire where he'll be king. The Mayor says that he can feel that the alligator is still out there and, worse, that Brown created the damn thing--and the Mayor is going to see him punished. So Brown just casually pulls out a handgun from his suit jacket and shoots the Mayor in the ribs.

Well, at least he's not afraid to get his own hands dirty, eh?

The three H's realize that the alligator is ahead of them in the tunnel they're running through, which means it's found its way directly to the lake and they run faster to catch up. Meanwhile, Sheri and Christine pull up and try to tell a uniformed cop to get the people out of the area but the cop tells Sheri her father has just been shot and that causes her to forget about evacuation. Unfortunately, the alligator is already in the lake and...ooh, boy.

There's a distressingly common mistake that a lot of makers of killer crocodilian movies seem to make, and this is a shining example of that. See, when alligators or crocodiles swim they use their tails to propel them through the water. If your killer crocodilian is swimming, you should have its tail moving. However, this is one of those films that doesn't understand that so its prop alligator just floats around, tail straight and stiff. It renders it as threatening as bathtub toy because it robs the prop of any sense of life.

Anyway, the alligator floats over to the carnival as Sheri greives over her father. It comes ashore and, after it narrowly misses grabbing a buff dude who's swinging the hammer in a strength test, it slaps him with its tail instead, smashing the strength tester in the process. It then rampages through the carnival, snapping at people's heels and slapping them with its tail, but steadfastly refusing to actually eat anyone. This is a far cry from the first film's climax where the gator devoured most of an upper class wedding party.

It doesn't help that most of the rampage is clearly just the prop head being wheeled around behind people. It's here I notice that it seems to actually be either the prop head from the original film or molded from it, because it looks just like it. It's actually a good prop, certainly better than the full body "swimming prop", but it's not well-executed here.

"It's not after us, it just wants our corn dogs!"
The alligator even fails to eat an organ grinder and a unicyclist that crashed into each other, but Brown panics and grabs all the contracts he's gotten to that point and orders his bodyguard to kill the alligator. Naturally, the bodyguard just manages to get knocked down by the crowd and gets his head chomped by the gator. Brown finds his path blocked by Reuben and his friends just as Hodges and co finally make it to the scene. Brown has a gun to Reuben's face when Hodges walks up and tells Brown it's over, but Brown tries to shoot Hodges instead and in the struggle to deflect his shot our heroes knock Brown off the narrow bridge into the lake.

In awkwardly mismatched stock footage from the first film, the alligator slips back into the lake. Yep, it's time for Brown to get his comeuppance by being devoured by the thing he created. I will give the film this--my memory of this scene held that Hodges deliberately tossed Brown to the alligator, but it's actually an accident. Either way, Brown gets et as the heroes watch, and I have to say the shots of the prop opening its mouth underwater as it rushes toward Brown are really well-done. "Damn: I didn't get paid," Hawk quips after Brown disappears beneath the water.

Seeing that the alligator is now floating to the center of the lake, our H trio climb into a flimsy motor boat to give chase. Sure enough, they're on the water for less than two minutes before the gator has smashed its way through the bottom on the boat and left them floating in the water.

"Now you need to keep this on his neck so he can't rip out his stitches!"
The police helicopter Speed promised earlier arrives just then, but it's too late for Hawk who has decided to pull a Quint and attacks the gator with a knife. It goes just as well for him as it did for his inspiration. So while Harmon is being safely pulled into the helicopter and Hawk is busy being death rolled, Hodges goes to the boat wreckage to get the speargun. When the alligator swims over him, Hodges spears it in the throat as instructed but it doesn't seem to do much but annoy it. He surfaces and then the helicopter pulls him to safety before the gator can swing back around for him.

Sadly, this means the movie fails to fulfill its obligation to have the gator destroy the helicopter.

Hodges tells Harmon that he got the gator but thinks he just pissed it off. When Harmon asks what they should do next, Hodges points out that the helicopter has two rocket launchers in it. Neither man has ever fired one before, but they figure it can't be that hard. Since the alligator has returned to the sewer via more stock footage from the first film, they disembark from the helicopter and return to the drains.

They split up once they enter the alligator's lair. Harmon sees it first and fires a shot, barely missing the gator and giving us an even better look at the woeful full body prop, which is seriously on the level of Eaten Alive.

Hodges takes careful aim as the gator barrels down on him--and then his shot nails it dead on, sending it up in a suitably impressive explosion. When Hodges and Harmon walk out of the sewer, they're greeted by a crowd chanting "Solo Lobo," which seems silly since he killed the gator with a partner and all. Hodges hugs Christine and Harmon hugs Sheri. Hodges and Christine head home to celebrate his birthday, while Reuben leads the crowd in tearing down the Vincent Brown Realty sign. Generic late 80s rock starts up and the credits roll.

I'm almost impressed by the lack of a stinger ending!

When Dollar Store Toys Attack
Despite the fact it is clearly a bad film, Alligator II: The Mutation doesn't really get talked about much even when the topic turns to disappointing horror sequels. It isn't hard to see why: there's really not much to talk about because the film plays it ludicrously safe.

See, when Piranha got a terrible sequel it had the decency to involve flying piranha. Yet, this film goes so far as to emphasize that its monster is a mutation in its title, but then presents a gator identical to what was seen in the first movie. Surely there had to be a much more interesting direction to take that in!

Hell, even if it was just going to be another large killer alligator there were better ways to approach that than this. I mean, come on, the film ends with the alligator rampaging through a carnival and the film almost botches that worse than the shark rampage in Jaws 3D! That is an almost impressive feat of mediocrity.

Sadly, that mediocrity extends to the rest of the film as well. I actually wish the film was worse because at least there's usually some fun to be had with an awful movie, but this is just...watchable. It's hard to have any more dramatic feelings about it than that because everything is so bland. You could put it on while cleaning your living room and miss nothing.

That's also partially because there's no sensible story to follow. Much is made of the alligator getting out of the sewer and into the lake--similar to how the gator in the first film eventually broke out of the sewer and went on a surface rampage--but not only do we see that it travels to the lake and back regularly, but its first two victims are killed in the lake! And I can't help but point out that the film's human villain plot is utterly lazy. Somehow an evil real estate tycoon just happens to also be the owner of the briefly mentioned chemical company that created the monster?

It would have actually been a better idea to have the alligator be totally unrelated to his criminal activities.

It doesn't help the poor story that the film plays everything just a bit too straight. While there are some attempts at the same level of humor that the original movie wove perfectly into its narrative, this script just can't make it work and quite frankly no one else can, either. The cast is full of professionals who have previously delivered great work, but none of them manage to leave the kind of impression the characters in the first film did.

Well, except maybe for Richard Lynch's constantly vanishing Cajun accent.

Honestly, this film doesn't just feel like a direct-to-video movie. With its largely bloodless attack scenes, lackluster direction, and somewhat lazy special effects it feels like a TV movie in the worst way.

If nothing else, this is the kind of sequel that makes you appreciate why not every good movie should become a franchise.

Welcome to another year of HubrisWeen! In true horror franchise form, we're promising this will be the last but you know it probably won't be!

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