(US); 1999; Rated R; 82 Minutes
Bill Pullman: Jack Wells
Bridget Fonda: Kelly Scott
Oliver Platt: Hector Cyr
Brendan Gleeson: Sheriff Hank Keough
Betty White: Delores Bickerman
Produced by Peter
Bogart, David E. Kelley and Michael Pressman; Directed
by Steve Miner; Screenwritten by David E. Kelley
by DAVID KEYES
ineffable part of me hurdles in excitement towards a ridiculous
creature feature, and "Lake Placid" is the kind of movie
that leaves me filled with unexplainable appreciation. Not
since "Anaconda" has a film managed to be so hair-brained
that it is completely enjoyable. The movie is bad beyond
comprehension, of course, but that's really not the point.
There comes a time every once in awhile when one is entitled
to savor the cheap thrills of a ludicrous and foolish movie.
Pictures like "The Mummy" and this one suggest that, even
though everything in sight defines cinematic repulsion,
that doesn't mean you still can't have a good time.
yet, "Lake Placid" is not always idiotic. Yes, the story
structure is admittedly hollow, and the characters lack
enough pizzazz to generate general interest. But the film
has dialogue with a satirical edge, and enough convincing
special effects to build up a fear in crocodiles. With those
qualities, the movie rises above being more than just a
guilty pleasure. Without them, the film still works for
me. Big budget productions in which ugly creatures chase
human beings are a weakness of mine (with the exception
of "Godzilla," naturally).
picture opens in Black Lake, a place, as we are told by
a deputy, "was almost called Lake Placid until someone learned
that the name had already been taken." Here, peace and serenity
gleam from the algae-filled waters, always calm because
there is only one civilian living near it. One day, when
a diver comes to tag beavers, he accidentally swims towards
an underwater nest where everything is quiet, the soundtrack
gets serious, and his legs are suddenly chewed off. When
his remains are recovered, a New York museum sends Kelly
Scott (Bridget Fonda) to investigate it, since the remains
contain a tooth which may carry a link to prehistoric origin.
Of course, a paleontologist would get the tooth and return
home, but Kelly offers to stay. Since she was dating her
boss, and he dumped her for another coworker, she's not
in a rush to get home. Too bad. Her stay at the lake is
by no means a pleasant one.
first, she and the concerned officials of this town do not
know what they are up against. There is belief that the
attack could have been caused by a bear, but that is set
aside when a friend of Kelly's, Hector (Oliver Platt), arrives
with the notion that he is going to find a crocodile in
these waters. The idea seems nonsensical, since there has
never been a sighting of one at this location. Quickly their
beliefs are discarded when they actually see the creature
ingest a bear, and later a cow, thanks to the help of an
old farm woman who considers the croc "a pet in the wild."
Betty White, who plays her, has all the best moments in
the movie, although the language that often comes out of
her mouth feels like sticking needles in your ears. Even
when she is babbling about law enforcement being a bunch
of jerks, she brings a sense of reality and compassion to
the situation. "If I had told you about the crocodile, you
would have killed him." This is the first monster picture
that I have seen in which a nice old woman likes the idea
of a reptile chomping down on police officials.
cast and story are not the point here. It's pretty obvious
that filmmakers are aiming to keep things simple, simply
by giving us a big special effects creature (created by
Stan Winston) and innocent bystanders to stand in his way.
By the time the croc has feasted on half-a-dozen sources,
you could care less whether he eats the most important characters
in the movie, since they aren't developed in a manner than
we can respect. The movie contains everything you could
imagine; wit, charm, big animals, severed limbs and explosive
dialogue. The only thing it lacks to make it more memorable
are decent underwater shots. Sometimes the camera catches
divers at such a frustrating angle that you cannot tell
the difference between two of them. The cloudiness of the
water doesn't help much, either.
course, the biggest complaint that "Lake Placid" will receive
has nothing to do with the film itself. It arrives at the
same time when movie theaters are unveiling the Sundance
Film Festival hit "The Blair Witch Project," which gets
its scares and screams for things other than blood and gore.
People who see this little indie horror flick are going
to look at Steve Miner's "Lake Placid" as a conventional,
generic piece of work with no thrills. I guess that's just
part of the typical movie audience, though: every time something
original shows up on screens, a more routine approach to
the genre, like this movie, is forgotten at the box office
and overshadowed by the other movie's popularity.
heavens I'm not in that typical movie audiences. As long
as Hollywood invests their money into flicks with big ugly
creatures terrorizing mankind, I'll be standing first in
1999, David Keyes, Cinemaphile.org.
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