Director – Steve Miner
Cast – Bill Pullman, Bridget Fonda, Brendan Gleeson, Oliver Platt, Betty White, David Lewis, Tim dixon, Natassia Malthe, Mariska Hargitay
Release Year – 1999
Reviewed by John of the Dead
I have always been a huge fan for killer animal flicks, especially involving reptiles likes snakes and alligators/crocodiles. When Lake Placid first debuted back in 1999 I remember loving the hell out of this movie, and while I have noticed more and more of the film’s faults as I have become older I still find this film to be mostly enjoyable thanks to the subject matter and some good cheese.
When a scientist is chomped in half during an underwater exploration in Lake Placid, an investigation into his death leads to a harrowing discovery when a crocodile tooth is found in his body. Numerous agencies are dispatched to investigate and find a logical explanation for the incident, and Parks and Wildlife Ranger Jack Wells(Bill Pullman; Independence Day, The Serpent and the Rainbow, Brain Dead, The Grudge, Scary Movie 4, Surveillance), Sheriff Hank Keough(Brendan Gleeson; 28 Days Later, The Village, Braveheart, The Butcher Boy), and independent scientist Kelly Scott(Bridgete Fonda) need little investigation when the crocodile begins munching on their crew members. With help and assistance days away, Jack Wells & co. must get creative in killing the creature, one of the world’s greatest killing machines that happens to be twice the size of the biggest ever recorded.
It is commonly believed that if you have seen one killer animal film then you have seen them all, and I believe that case carries merit. However, because I love these types of films that does not bother me, especially when you consider that the slasher sub-genre suffers the same unoriginality and cliches as well.
I enjoyed the storyline and the alpine setting that it used, which was a break from films like Alligator and Blood Surf that gave us a killer alligator/croc in a high population area with plenty of authorities to come to the rescue. The setting in Lake Placid provided the perfect atmosphere for the croc to reside in, and forced our protagonists to wait an extended period of time for help dealing with the creature. It takes a while before we are given the bulk of the crocodile action, but David E. Kelly’s screenplay included positively placed kills and enough fun developments to keep the viewer engaged until the good stuff kicks in. Some have referred to this film as more of a horror/comedy than a cheezy horror film, and I believe that carries some merit given the silly antics our characters got themselves into as well as how the characters were used. Jack Wells was the typical macho man, Sheriff Keough was the bumbling legal authority, Kelly Scott was the prissy girl who was way over her head, and we were given comic relief with the inclusion of Hector Cyr(Oliver Platt), a renowned crocodile hunter. Each of these characters was used according the the normal film cliches, and while most of them were enjoyable I found Kelly Scott to be horribly written and equally horribly portrayed by Bridget Fonda. Thankfully, the usage of the crocodile was good and along with some good kills came some good exciting chills as well.
Director Steve Miner(Friday the 13th Part II, Friday the 13th Part III, House) was no stranger to the horror genre, and followed his mostly-positive Halloween H20: 20 Years Later with this film less than one year later. I have remained a fan of his throughout his career, and while this film was a bit too comedic for my personal tastes I feel that he accurately made a positive transition bringing the fun yet faulty screenplay to screen. The location used for the film was perfect for the story, and gave us a tranquil feeling that you know is too good to be true, and it provided a template for some good crocodile action as well. With Miner being a horror vet you can assume that YES he did provide some sweet kills and good live-action gore, but I was honestly even more impressed with the CGI graphics used for the crocodile. Given how bad the CGI for Blade was just one year prior, I was astonished at how real the crocodile looked during the CGI moments, and it allowed for some great high-tension scenes as well. Thankfully, we also get some great live-action usage of the crocodile, which came mostly during close-up shots, and also delivered good chills as well thanks to the well-written and well-executed scenes that employed the live-action crocodile usage.
Overall, Lake Placid is a somewhat cheezy watch that carries many faults, but in the end it provides a great killer animal experience thanks to a mostly-positive story and great direction from horror veteran Steve Miner.