Alligator II: The Mutation
A skeevy land developer is trying to gentrify the property around a town’s picturesque lake by buying up the land from all the poorer residents so he can knock down their homes and build multi-million dollar properties. Which may make him a giant a-hole, but isn’t anything illegal. What ISN’T so legal however, is his side business, Future Chemicals, which has been illegally dumping toxic waste into the town’s sewer system for years. And, wouldn’t you know it, there just so happens to be another alligator down in the pipe system of this city that has now not only grown to ginormous size thanks to all the virulent chemicals, but has also started munching down on the local townsfolk. So now it’s up to a sarcastic detective, his scientist wife, a rookie cop, and a Cajun swamp hunter to circumvent the greedy land developer and track down the beast before he turns any more innocent civilians into his unwilling chew toys.
Which of course isn’t going to happen, because this is a monster movie and everyone is a chew toy in monster movies.
I usually try not to know anything about the new movies I’m about to watch. That way I can go into it without any preconceived expectations. But when I mentioned to someone about watching the first Alligator, the second thing out of their mouth (after commenting on how fun the first movie was) was that I should probably skip the sequel because it was awful. So, um, initial plan foiled, I guess. But hey, I watched it anyway (because of course I did), and… Yeah, Alligator II is really not what I’d call a “good” movie, and it certainly doesn’t live up to the charm that the original possessed, but it’s also not nearly as “awful” as I had been led to believe. Or, at the very least, it’s still very watchable.
The problem with Alligator II isn’t so much that the film is inherently dreadful or anything, because it’s not. It’s actually a fairly well put-together little film, quite honestly. The movie’s main issue just seems to be that it’s rather… Well, I suppose boring would be the most apt way to put it. Even with over a decade to think on it, the filmmakers just didn’t seem to want to do anything different with this second outing. The film’s plot follows that of the original’s so closely that it almost feels like a thinly veiled attempt at a remake than it does a sequel, to the point where any changes made just feel little more than cosmetic in nature. You go from a movie about a corrupt mayor, to a movie about a corrupt land developer who happens to be corrupting the mayor. You’ve got the same sarcastic-type cop who’s in a relationship with the film’s science lady, only this time they don’t have nearly as creepy of a relationship. There’s a rookie cop wandering around, who manages to not get munched on this time. And an expert reptile hunter shows up at some point towards the middle, except he’s 1000 times more competent than the last guy. So already we’ve got pretty much the same main characters, but with minor tweaks. That said though, those tweaks actually do make the characters more interesting and engaging and feel like actual people, and not just tropes from monster movies like the last film. So in that regard the changes made turned out very well.
But similar characters is not where the similarities between the two films end, because even all the plot beats in this film end up being the same as the first one. Introduce toxic chemical issues>People die>Introduce all the characters>reveal death>Political intrigue>”It’s an alligator! No, it can’t be!”>More political intrigue>Search sewers>Get attacked>Call expert>More death>Even more political intrigue>Things go horribly awry>Climax>The End. It’s just beat for beat for beat the same as the first film, meaning if you’ve already seen the first Alligator, then you’re practically going to be able to predict every plot point this film throws at you well before you ever get to it. It’s that bad. The only thing that’s different is that the film spends far too much time focusing on the subplot involving the creepy land developer and all the undue influence he’s getting all over town. Seriously, this movie spends A LOT of time on this man and his cronies, and for what, I ask? So we’ll hate him more? The film already accomplished that in one scene. It didn’t need five. It’s like they forgot that the viewers were there to see a monster movie, not a film about inner city politics. But even that forced monotony might have been okay if the film had the same level of charm as the first movie, but of course it doesn’t. Where Alligator managed to do goofy naturally and effortlessly, in this film those same attempts at humor more often than not feel forced instead of seamless, which makes things feel unnecessarily awkward and sucks out any of the potential stupid joy that watching a film about a ridiculously large, rampaging alligator can bring.
And speaking about large, rampaging alligators, that brings us to the second significant ding against this film, the effects, which in this case means: How does the alligator look? Because that’s really the only effect they could afford. And the answer is: Not great. After the end of the first film, the awesome looking (though often malfunctioning) alligator animatronic known as Ramon was given to the University of Florida as a team mascot, where he was occasionally trotted out before games and during half-time shows (where he probably had more than one beer thrown at him). Meaning the filmmakers of Alligator II had to put together a whole new alligator for their monster movie, and let me tell you, this dead-eyed beast is nowhere near as impressive as Ramon was. Ramon’s design was so good that he almost looked more life-like than some real-life alligators, but the thing in this film looks like the rubber suit that it is. The only time this thing looks lifelike is when they swap in footage of an actual alligator in a couple of its scenes to pull off stuff that their suit can’t. I think the crocodile in Killer Crocodile actually looked more convincing than this poor thing. Which is a shame, because we actually get more footage of the alligator in general this time around, and instead of being awed by its appearance like we were in the first film, seeing this thing’s rubbery visage tends to suck you right out of the moment. Though I will give the filmmakers credit for doing one thing that neither the first film, nor the Killer Crocodile films managed to do, and that was to actually show the alligator doing a death roll with its prey. I mean, they do it for too long to the point where you can see some of the coating flaking off the outside of their alligator suit/puppet (whatever the hell it is) which, again, sucks you out of the moment a bit. But I was impressed that they attempted the death roll at all, let alone pulled it off, so kudos to them for managing to add some honest-to-god reptile behavior into their film.
Roar! I say, Roar!
I think the one thing that keeps this movie from truly being “awful” is the caliber of its cast. You’ve got veteran actors like Brock Peters as the put-upon police chief (who does an excellent job, btw) and Joseph Bologna, the latter of which I would not have hand picked for this particular lead role, but still ends up doing an excellent job in that part. Then you’ve got Dee Wallace who shows up as this movie’s version of “the science lady”. Sadly the film makes her spout some nonsense and be kinda useless, but just her mere perpetually charming presence helps elevate the role and smooth over any of the rougher edges. The highlight though, is the ever impressive Richard Lynch as Hawk Hawkins (yes, that is the actual name they gave him) as the leader of the Cajun alligator hunters. Lynch was usually known for playing villains (of which he was very good), but this time he actually gets to be a good guy, and like always he gives his all, even if his part is a little hokey. Oh! And Kane Hodder even has a small role as one of Hawk’s bayou brothers. Hodder actually played the un-credited part of the alligator in the first film, but this time around he gets the dignity of both a named character and a credit. It’s always nice to see him in a role where you can actually see his face.
Honestly, even though the movie isn’t very good, my biggest gripe with the film is that they subtitle it “The Mutation”. Why? Because there is none. You hear “mutation” and you think you’re going to get something cool, like, I don’t know, gnarly teeth or sharp claws or something. But you’re not. The “mutation” in question is just a reference to the animal’s size which, truthfully, doesn’t look any bigger than the alligator from the first film. In fact, I’m pretty sure it’s smaller. So here’s a big F-U to whoever named this thing. But beyond that one annoying nit-pick that irritates me more than it should, Alligator II is just a mediocre film. It’s not necessarily good, but it’s also not all that bad, either. The plot’s way too predictable, and the film spends too much time focusing on the greedy land guy than the more pressing issue regarding the giant, man-eating reptile. And the reptile in question looks like crap, except the few times when they replace it with an actual reptile. But doing that just makes the fake version look even crappier. And what’s worse? They double cheaped out by reusing real-life alligator footage from the first film and hoped you wouldn’t notice. Well, sucks for them, because of course I watched these films back-to-back and guess what? I noticed.
But on the bright side the film looks and sounds pretty good, and at least the characters and actors are engaging enough to keep the film afloat, even during the many plotting issues. Does that completely save it? No. But it means that though the film may not be the fun B-movie it’s predecessor was, it’s at least good enough to be kept far removed from any Z-grade designations. Personally, I’d give it a low C-grade. So, overall an unnecessary sequel that’s fun enough, but little more than a simple time-waster…
But still far from “awful”.
Alligator II: The Mutation is available on a variety of streaming services.
Alligator II: The Mutation is also available on Bluray.