John Sayles is famous for dramas so low-key they put me to sleep. Like, for example, Lone Star, probably the least exciting movie about accidental incest ever made. He’s not bad; in fact, he’s very good; it’s just that I drink coffee and demand a life full of excitement.
Long ago, however, Mr. Sayles financed his arty efforts by writing genre pictures, like the satirical werewolf movie The Howling and the satirical animal attack movie Piranha. This is the stuff that makes me like him. My favorite is Alligator (1980; directed by Lewis Teague with an admirable efficiency and a curious interest in exploding vehicles). It’s the venerable gators-in-the-sewers legend, ramped up with growth hormones and corporate corruption.
Most filmmakers can’t do humor and horror at the same time, not REAL horror, but Sayles and Teague manage it. There’s a night scene in which little boys are playing pirates, and one of them has to “walk the plank” over a backyard pool, and at the last minute he sees something in the water. . .