Jun 10, 2014

Review: Lake Placid (1999)

Water-based monster movies must be one of the most copied genres in Hollywood. Jaws is pretty much perfect and is a whole lot of fun as well. Here we are 24 years later with another attempt at cashing in on Jaws but this time it's with a giant crocodile. I don't know about you but between the two, I'll take the shark. At least I know that if I actually get to land, I'll be safe. Crocs have a nasty habit of running on land pretty quick to go after their prey.

Director Steve Miner does have some experience with horror movies with a couple of Friday the 13th entries as well as a Halloween film under his belt. Is there maybe some hope then? There's what looks like a respectable cast and John Ottman isn't too shabby a composer. He's got a tall order in trying to make a score that doesn't sound like it's trying to rip off John Williams' work from Jaws. In addition to being a horror movie though, Lake Placid makes the key distinction of also being a comedy movie so it's probably going to have it's tongue firmly planted in its cheek.


Genre: action, comedy, horror
Directed by: Steve Miner
Produced by: David E. Kelley, Michael Pressman, Peter Bogart, etc.
Written by: David E. Kelley
Music by: John Ottman
Running time: 82 minutes
Production company: Fox 2000 Pictures, Phoenix Pictures, Rocking Chair Productions
Distributed by: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, Fox 2000 Pictures, Filmes Lusomundo, etc.
Country: United States
Language: English
Budget: $35,000,000
Box office: $56,870,414 (Worldwide)

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Bill Pullman, Bridget Fonda, Oliver Platt, Brendan Gleeson, Betty White, David Lewis, Tim Dixon, Natassia Malthe, Mariska Hargitay, Meredith Salenger, Jed Rees, Richard Leacock, Jake T. Roberts, Warren Takeuchi, Ty Olsson




A Maine Fish and Game officer is in a boat with sheriff Hank Keough (Brenden Gleeson) for whatever scientific reason. The MFG officer dives into the lake and is mysteriously attacked by something in the water. The only clue left behind is a tooth that is sent to the American Museum of Natural History in New York. Paleontologist Kelly Scott (Bridget Fonda) of said museum sets out to Lake Placid as do MFG officer Jack Wells (Bill Pullman) and crocodile worshiper Hector Cyr (Oliver Platt).


Is Lake Placid the least bit scary? Unfortunately no, it isn't scary in the least. Jump scares can be spotted before they happen a few hundred miles before but I guess that some credit has to be given for at least no revealing the super croc too soon. The way in which the tension is built up until its reveal is extremely ineffective though and is better suited for laughs.

So that means that Lake Placid is funny then? Well, the laughs it got out of me weren't the kind Steve Miner was going for I don't think. Lake Placid is good for being laughed at, not laughing with and I didn't detect any tongue in cheek at all. It's almost like the film was made in all seriousness and when producers took a look at it, they decided to add the comedy tag to give it an excuse as to why it's easy to laugh at. It doesn't feel satirical and the real attempts it makes at actual comedy are just lame and embarrassing. It's an anti-funny movie that doesn't get its actors on board either. Nobody really looks like they're having any fun.

Oliver Platt maybe comes close to being the one who's having some semblance of fun but he plays such an unfunny character. Platt tries a bit but it's a huge losing effort. I feel especially bad for Bridget Fonda who plays the worst character of all. She does close to nothing to actually advance the story and is forced to just act offended or scared the whole time. Her character could be taken out completely and there wouldn't be any difference. (Spoilers) Her romance with officer Jacks Wells is also pretty awkward and just acts as a cheap way to raise the stakes. (End Spoilers)

This is 1999 so the effects aren't that great. I guess that's excusable, so don't go into Lake Placid expecting world class CGI. There's the CGI croc and the model croc which is done pretty well actually but isn't used very much because the monster needs to be moving for the most part. The critical scene at the end happens at night which is a good way to shelter the crocodile from looking too bad.

Lake Placid pretty much doesn't get anything right. There are no thrills, no scares and there aren't any legitimate laughs. I suppose it's possible to force your brain into satirical mode but Lake Placid doesn't deserve any kind of excuses. Lake Placid is welcome to simply join the pile of failed Jaws ripoffs if you ask me.



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