Lake Placid (1999)

lakeplacidCreature
Giant Asian Crocodile

Alternate Titles
Το μυστικο της μαυρης λιμνης
The secret of the black lake

Country
USA

Director
Steve Miner

Writer
David E Kelley

Story

“When a giant Asian Crocodile starts wreaking havoc at the picturesque Lake Placid, the unlikely band of a Fish & Game officer, palaeontologist, crocodile enthusiast and the local Sheriff to get to the bottom of how it came here and what to do about it?!”

Cast

  • Bill Pullman – Jack Wells
  • Bridget Fonda – Kelly Scott
  • Oliver Platt – Hector Cyr
  • Brendan Gleeson – Sheriff Hank Keough
  • Betty White – Mrs Delores Bickerman
  • David Lewis – Walt Lawson
  • Tim Dixon – Stephen Daniels
  • Natassia Malthe – Janine
  • Mariska Hargitay – Myra Okubo
  • Meredith Salenger – Deputy Sharon Gare

Creature Connections

  • Loch Ness Terror – David Lewis
  • Wyvern – David Lewis

Gallery

    N/A

Review

    Lake Placid is a 1999 killer crocodile film directed by Steve Miner which, after making a profit at the box office, led to a string of made-for-TV movies courtesy of the Syfy channel. Filmed largely in Canada, this creature feature has a running time of 82 minutes and stars Bridget Fonda as a not-so-plucky palaeontologist alongside Brendan Gleeson, Oliver Platt, Bill Pullman and Betty White.

    When a corpse is discovered with the tooth of a giant prehistoric crocodile embedded in it, a sheltered suburban palaeontologist is sent to the rural Lake Placid to help uncover the truth about the man-eating reptile. However when environmental agents threaten to come and kill the menace, she must team with the local law enforcement and an eccentric crocodile enthusiast if she is to stand any chance of capturing the miraculous creature alive.

    Lake Placid comes as part of a slightly misguided attempt by film-makers to return creature features to their previous theatrical cinematic standing. Alongside Anaconda, this creature feature has a relatively impressive budget, kinda A-list actors and a startling degree of creative and technical professionalism.  However unlike its snake-based counterpart, Lake Placid only made a minimal profit and went straight to TV sequels whereas Anaconda was able to last for one more theatrical release before descending to TV movies. In both quadrilogies, the TV sequels were produced by the Syfy Channel with greatly reduced budgets.

    Director Steve Miner (Friday the 13th II & III) has been in the horror business for a long time and easily steers the script, courtesy of TV writer David E. Kelley, with fluidity and grace. Out of all the key players, it is Kelley who deserves the most praise for writing a remarkably funny, interesting and entertaining script for a genre that’s full of lazy formula stories and half-baked ideas. Kelley has no prior credits in horror and it shows on-screen as the film slants way more towards comedy and action than it ever does to horror. To put that into context, the body count is a measly two people and the majority of the gore, although looking fantastic, comes and ends with the first kill.

    By all accounts, none of the characters in Lake Placid should be in any way likeable but together this band of eccentric and surprisingly well though-out players actually make for a fantastic leading team, helped greatly by the superb writing and fine acting.

    Bridget Fonda is our main character as the sheltered and nature-averse palaeontologist, Kelly Scott, and her character follows the standard coming out of her shell character arc i.e. at first she hates the dirt and insects but eventually chooses to stay in the wilderness. Fonda handles the comedy well but her character is nothing original and her development certainly isn’t as interesting as the ‘buddy love’ arc between the cop and the croc enthusiast.

    Gleeson is great as Sheriff Hank Keough convincingly bringing his grumpy, reluctant, middle-aged law officer to life especially with the fantastic back-and-forth with Platt’s character. The occasional line read sounds a little awkward or half-arsed but otherwise Gleeson is on top form.

    Oliver Platt steals the show as the hilariously eccentric crocodile enthusiast Hector Cyr. Also a mythology professor, Cyr is rude, smug and unbelievably cocky but is also relentlessly dedicated to capture the giant crocodile without harming the creature in any way. This of course brings him into contention with the gun-toting Sherriff Keough, who would rather eliminate the croc before it harms any more people, and the dialogue between Gleeson and Platt’s love/hate relationship is certainly the highlight of the entire film.

    Pullman is the only one of the main cast to not make much of an impression and to be his fair, he has the least developed character out of them all. The only reasons why Jack Wells is in this film are being an obligatory love interest for the main character, exposition dumping and stopping Keough and Cyr from killing each other. It’s one of those occasions where the role is necessary for the storyline but the character’s not particularly interesting nor does Pullman bring anything special to the part.

    I may have spoken too soon when I said that Platt’s Hector Cyr steals the show when really all credit should go to Betty White and her wonderfully blunt and foul-mouthed Dolores Bickerman, who has been raising the reptiles as her babies. Every scene containing White is pure comedy gold as she says every ridiculous line completely straight-faced.

    Lake Placid was gifted with a substantial budget for a creature feature and as a result, the crocodile looks amazing. Whenever it’s not CGI, the crocodile is a 30-foot (9.1 m) model created by Stand Winston Studios, best known for their work for the Jurassic Park, Aliens and Predator franchises. I am a strong supporter of GIC, puppets, models and any other alternative to CGI, especially in lower budget creature features so I would happily give LP a standing ovation for not only using practical effects but for going to the best in the business for them as well.

    Even if Lake Placid didn’t have the fantastic writing or the great acting, I would like it regardless because it features one of my favourite scenes in any film ever. I am going to spoil that scene now. During act two, the characters run into a bear in the forest and completely unarmed – things do not look good for the main cast when… The crocodile launches out of the lake and snatches the Grizzly Bear, dragging it back into the water depths of the lake. It’s completely over-the-top CGI but the bear’s desperate thrashing still looks really cool, rather dated but still really cool nonetheless. So the next time someone mentions how cool and original this new ‘Creature Vs Creature’ trend is, let them know that it all started back in 1999 with Lake Placid’s Grizzly Bear Vs Giant Crocodile scene.

    To be one of the few creature feature franchises to make it to three sequels is an achievement that Lake Placid earned through a surprisingly large amount of care and attention to technical details. Whether you view it as a face-slappingly original killer crocodile movie or as a sly ironic parody, enjoyment is guaranteed. For its efforts towards the failed cinematic resurrection of the Creature Feature, I salute you Lake Placid.

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