Judge Patrick Naugle is a gator hater.
Our review of Lake Placid, published January 29th, 2000, is also available.
You'll never know what bit you.
Welcome to Black Lake in Lincoln County, Maine. The waters are clear, the fishing is plentiful, and the wild life is truly…well, wild! When Sheriff Hank Keough (Brendan Gleeson, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix) pulls out a Fish and Game officer from Black Lake who's been gruesomely bitten in half, paleontologist Kelly Scott (Bridget Fonda, A Simple Plan) is brought in—along with a Fish and Game warden (Bill Pullman, Independence Day) and a mythology professor (Oliver Platt, 2012)—to figure out what's eating the local residents. It appears that an enormous crocodile is the culprit, though catching the humongous beast may end in one long smorgasbord for the extraordinarily hungry reptile!
Lake Placid wants to have its cake and eat it, too. The film comes from a long line of horror comedies that straddle a precarious line between giggles and screams. It's a very difficult maneuver to pull off; most of the time horror comedies fail because they either can't get the laughs or they aren't terrifying enough. I can only think of a handful of films that got it right: Return of the Living Dead, Gremlins, and Shaun of the Dead immediately spring to mind. When it's done right, the results can be thrilling. When it's not, the movie is often DOA.
Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later director Steve Miner's Lake Placid is a monster movie that fluctuates between chills and chuckles, often eschewing the former for the latter. The film was written by David E. Kelly, most famous for creating TV's Ally McBeal and various television comedic dramas. Kelly has an ear for amusing dialogue and snappy comebacks but doesn't seem to know what to do with the horror aspects of the screenplay. While there are a few tense moments to be found here—including a thrilling helicopter attack and using a poor cow as bait for the crocodile—the movie spends most of its time in banter and laughter, momentarily pausing for the crocodile to spring from the lake and attack the main characters.
Lake Placid is filled with actors who know how to rip through the dialogue at a breakneck pace. Bill Pullman stars as the laid back sheriff who deals with a cavalcade of characters orbiting him, most amusingly Oliver Platt as a scientist in the vein of Jeff Goldblum's Ian Malcolm from Jurassic Park. Brendan Gleeson plays a dim witted sheriff who ends up as the butt of many jokes but is great with a slow burn look. Rounding out the cast is Bridget Fonda as a paleontologist who is out of her element in the woods. Of course, Pullman and Fonda have to become entangled in a clichéd love story because…well, because that's what happens in these kinds of movies (no other plausible reason is given).
Now fifteen years old, Lake Placid features effects work that, while sufficient in 1999, never rises above adequate. The computer generated effects are obvious and the action is sparse, but the movie's heart is in the right place. There have been a few scattered 'killer crocodile' movies over the years (including 2007's lesser effort Primeval), and Lake Placid has bafflingly spawned three direct-to-DVD sequels, each one worse than the last.
Clocking in at 82 minutes, Lake Placid never outstays its welcome. There isn't a lot of depth to be found here; it's a monster movie, plain and simple. Characters are introduced, the threat is ushered on-screen, and chaos ensues. Even with its faults, Lake Placid gets the job done and is an efficient if insubstantial horror comedy…with an emphasis on the comedy.
Lake Placid is presented in a very attractive looking 2.35:1 widescreen transfer in 1080p high definition. This title—leased from Fox to Scream Factory—looks very good with bright colors (especially greens and blues) and solid black levels. The image is clear of any discernible imperfections, making it big upgrade form the lackluster DVD version from fifteen years ago. The soundtrack is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Surround in English. This is an often aggressive audio track that features a fair amount of surround sounds and directional effects (especially during the crocodile attacks). No alternate subtitles or soundtracks are available on this disc.
Extra features include some new interviews with actor Bill Pullman, director Steve Miner, director of photography Daryn Okada, a few interviews with members of the special effects team, a vintage featurette, some behind-the-scenes VFX footage, some TV spots, and a trailer for the film.
Lake Placid is a fulfilling enough time waster for horror fans. Scream Factory offers up a fine video presentation, good audio, and a few meaty extra features for us to chew on.
Not guilty. ((CHOMP!))
Give us your feedback!
What's "fair"? Whether positive or negative, our reviews should be unbiased, informative, and critique the material on its own merits.
Scales of Justice
Studio: Shout! Factory
Review content copyright © 2014 Patrick Naugle; Site design and review layout copyright © 2014 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.