I saw Lake Placid in theaters back in ’99 and haven’t really thought about it since. Being the petulant teenager I was, I couldn’t appreciate the deft blend of horror and comedy David E. Kelley’s script. Older and (a little) wiser, I now appreciate it for the fun, but uneven, little creature feature it is thanks to Scream Factory’s new Blu-ray, which sports a brand new documentary and some fun vintage features. While the comedy bits are pretty spot-on, the horror elements are rather drab and it never feels like a cohesive film.
Lake Placid cuts right to the chase by biting a guy in half within the first two minutes. There’s a mammoth crocodile lurking in a remote lake up in Maine and paleontologist Kelly Scott (Bridget Fonda) reluctantly leaves her New York museum job to investigate. Fish and Game warden Jack Wells (Bill Pullman) and Sheriff Hank Keough (Brendan Gleeson) lead her into the fray. They’re unexpectedly joined by rowdy croc aficionado Hector, play with panache to spare by the Oliver Platt. Once Platt shows up, he pretty much carries the movie. He exchanges heaps of witty banter with Gleeson, while Fonda and Pullman slowly develop a romance, which actually feels totally organic.
There’s a backstory for Fonda that feels really out of place in the film. She’s sent to Maine by her boss, who dumped her the same day. It planted a distrust of men in her, I get that, but it feels like there’s some huge chunks of the story missing.
Following the set-up, Lake Placid sinks into repetitive territory. The whole middle portion is the crew going out on the lake, almost getting eaten, going back to land, and repeating that process. After it’s established that it is in fact a giant crocodile, which happens fairly early on, I have no clue why they keep going out on the water. Why wouldn’t they just stay on land and figure out a way to kill it that didn’t involve almost getting eaten every 10 minutes.
There’s a running gag of Gleeson constantly getting ensnared in traps Platt set in case the croc comes on land. Betty White and her potty mouth are thrown in for some shock value. All of these hijinks are fun and the dialogue is fantastic, but there’s really nothing interesting going on until the climax. The payoff is pretty decent, but doesn’t make up for the drab middle.
The comedy elements are consistent at least, and the relationships between characters are engaging enough to hold interest, but Lake Placid never feels like a cohesive film. Hell at least it’s fun and the crocodile looks amazing (Stan Winston, duh). The animatronic croc looks way better than the CGI one, which appears laughable at times. This was 1999, so I guess all the higher-paid animators were busting their ass on The Phantom Menace or something.
Scream Factory’s new Blu-ray sports a strong 1080p presentation. There’s some minor banding issues in the underwater shots, but other than that there’s nothing to complain about. The film was shot in panorama widescreen and some of the location shots look downright stunning. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is fairly dynamic and defined.
The big special feature is the 30-minute doc, where Pullman and various crew members reminisce. A lot of time is spent talking about the animatronic crocodile and other special effects and it’s all really interesting. What’s also impressive is the enormous set they built for scenes like the climax. They shipped in 80 ft. trees and even constructed a massive water tank. It’s really cool stuff and a blast to watch right after viewing the film. For another interesting bit about the crocodile, check out the test footage, which is about seven minutes of the animatronic moving through the lake.
Also included on the disc is a vintage featurette, which acts as a glorified commercial for the film, and trailers and TV spots.