Director Steve Miner and writer David E. Kelly’s “Lake Placid” is a B monster movie that knows what it is, and almost works against its type to offer something of substance. The harder it tries for satire and meta-storytelling, the more absurd “Lake Placid” is, thus more surreal. I wouldn’t classify “Lake Placid” as a great monster movie, but it has a strange energy to it that elevates it above usual monster movie tropes, but also keeps it firmly planted in the corner of a horror comedy bordering on a spoof quite often.
Is it intentional that the romance between Pullman and Fonda’s character is lackluster and fruitless? Is the Laurel and Hardy buffoonery between Brendan Gleeson and Oliver Platt all tongue in cheek and intentional? Is the over the top xenophobia between Fonda’s New Yorker and Gleeson’s small town bumpkin from Maine on purpose? Surely, placing a giant crocodile in a New England lake had some semblance of tongue in cheek satire somewhere within writer Kelly. In Lincoln County Maine, the investigation of the local lake leads Sheriff Hank Keough to come face to face with a gruesome underwater animal attack that leaves a Fish and Game officer/diver partly eaten.
Called in to investigate the incident and evidence are Fish and Game officer Jack Wells, and uptight paleontologist Kelly Scott, who travels from the Museum of Natural History to investigate the weird murders of animals that lead her to the tooth of a gigantic reptile. Interrupted by eccentric mythology professor and crocodile enthusiast Hector Cyr, the group has to figure out not only how the gigantic crocodile got in to the lake, but why it’s there in the first place. The casting and mixing of said performers is just about as surreal as the movie itself, often leading me to wonder what the thought process of the story was. Bridget Fonda underplays her sexual appeal poorly as a tightly wound paleontologist, while Bill Pullman– typically a romantic lead–plays heroic officer pretty well. There’s also Oliver Platt playing Oliver Platt as a more comical Quint, prone to worshiping the croc more than hunting it.
There’s also the talented Brendan Gleeson who is fun as the stern Sheriff who plays bafflement and slow wittedness with a wry sense of humor. Not to mention there’s Betty White who plays a key role. “Lake Placid” is an unusual beast of a horror comedy, and one that loses its marbles and never tries to remotely salvage what is such a demented and odd monster movie based around the simple premise of a giant crocodile wreaking havoc in the wilderness of New England. It’s never particularly scary or suspenseful, but revels in its absurdity, playing more to wit and one liners than raucous action and gore. What gore there is is used with a tongue in cheek motif, ala character Kelly’s anger at being hit with severed heads on an almost regular bases. “Lake Placid” is well worth the watch if only for its attempts to inject levity in what’s just a simple nature run amok horror comedy.
Scream Factory delivers as usual with a thirty minute “Making Of” featurette garnering interviews with key cast members, as well garnering anecdotes and looks in to the production of the film. There’s the original theatrical trailer, as well as a vintage promotional piece for the film clocking in at over five minutes in length. There’s the original TV Spots, as well as a Behind the Scenes Gallery. Finally, there’s a seven minute reel of “Croc Test Footage” that displays how Stan Winston and his company created the crocodile for major action scenes.