Director: Steve Miner
Writer: David E. Kelley
Cast: Bill Pullman, Bridget Fonda, Oliver Platt, Brendan Gleeson, and Betty White
Length: 82 min
Label: Shout! Factory
Release Date: July 8, 2014
Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Audio: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
- The Making of Lake Placid – A 30+ minute documentary that features interviews with Bill Pullman, director Steve Miner, editor Marshall Harvey, cinematographer Daryn Okada, production designer John Willett, effects superviser Nick Marra and make-up effects supervisor Toby Lindala
- Theatrical Trailer
- Vintage Featurette
- TV Spots
- Croc Test Footage
- Behind the Scenes Still Gallery
Before all three Cheez Whiz-made in-name-only sequels on the Syfy channel, there was Lake Placid, 1999’s answer to John Sayles’ Alligator (1980). Released in July of that year right before fun killer-shark flick Deep Blue Sea, this zippy, entertainingly tongue-in-cheek hybrid of a gory monster B-movie and a wickedly amusing black comedy still holds up as an underrated gem fifteen years later. What a treat then that Shout! Factory’s Scream Factory has released a slick collector’s blu-ray transfer.
Lake Placid opens with a gross-out amuse-bouche: a scuba diver is dragged by an unseen creature, then pulled up onto a fishing boat…but just his gurgling wet-suit torso. It might be a little more graphic than Jaws and the only time a film has ever employed the “it’s only a beaver!” false-alarm jump scare, but at least we don’t see the “Monster from Black Lake” right away. The uncomplicated plot doesn’t take much thought, nor does it really matter when a wild animal is munching up characters who know how to verbally spar snappily like pros.
In Aroostook County, Maine (not Lake Placid, New York, as a character cutely mentions that name was taken), the small town has to deal with its man-eating problem — a hungry, pesky 30-foot saltwater crocodile! When the prehistoric fragment of a tooth is found at the scene of said scuba-diving accident, the grouchy Sheriff Hank Keough (Brendan Gleeson) gets sent some additional backup, including whiny, timber-allergic museum paleontologist Kelly Scott (Bridget Fonda), fish and game warden Jack Wells (Bill Pullman), and a crocodile-swimming gasbag named Hector Cyr (Oliver Platt). Initially, some of them believe the local carnivore to be a bear, but the real culprit can take a bear any day.
Director Steve Miner has poked around the horror genre for a while now, having worked as an editor on Wes Craven’s The Last House on the Left and directed the first and second Friday the 13th sequels, as well as Halloween H20: 20 Years Later. With Lake Placid, he made a summery B-movie with rocks for brains, but an acerbic mouth on it, and it succeeds purely on that level. While it might not be terribly scary, it doesn’t seem like it was supposed to be. There are dribs and drabs of tension, particularly its opener and a nighttime climax where Kelly tries outswimming the vicious reptile. The film is a professional package, too. Stan Winston’s animatronic effects are realistic, while the jerky computer animation not so much (especially when the crocodile goes on land), but it is all in the spirit of those endearingly crummy B-movies of yesteryear. Also, John Ottman’s memorable score changes from serenity to menace on a dime.
Courtesy of screenwriter David E. Kelley’s (TV’s Ally McBeal) witty writing, Lake Placid offsets its creature-feature element with likably edgy characters and deliciously sarcastic wit, extending the colorful vulgarity to an enjoyably well-qualified cast. Bridget Fonda is feisty fun and limits the annoyance as Kelly, the finicky, type-A New Yorker who isn’t exactly one with the wilderness, throwing off the line, “Stop throwing heads at me!” and observing cow bait as “a giant tea bag.” Bill Pullman brings a reliable level-headedness to Jack Wells, while Brendan Gleeson, as the exasperated sheriff, and Oliver Platt, as a kooky mythology professor, yield some laughs. However, the real scene-stealer is then-77-year-old “golden girl” Betty White as dotty farm lady Mrs. Delores Bickerman, who’s actually the one keeping our croc around like a wild pet by blindfolding her cattle to the water. She’s such a sailor-mouthed firecracker, especially when it comes to the line, “If I had a dick, this is where I’d tell you to suck it.” This might be a killer-croc movie with severed heads and worm-infested toes, but everyone is having a blast.
Inarguably, the 1080p presentation of the transfer is clean and sharp. The opening shot looming over the trees and over the lake is particularly bright before the camera dives into the green, murky water; the outdoor scenes lend a golden warmth; and the greens of the forest pop. Overall, visual sheen is still intact.
Dialogue is audible and the sound, from John Ottman’s music score to the crocodile growls and chomping effects, seems evenly mixed, making a pretty flawless final product.
Always upping their game, Shout! Factory supplies a modestly light amount of extra features. Bill Pullman is the lone cast member to show up for interviews, but director Steve Miner gives insight into the chilly shooting conditions of Lake Placid on a man-made lake in Canada. For those into behind-the-scenes bells and whistles, the Croc Test Footage is a fun little feature that showcases the trials and tribulations, which were probably less taxing than “Bruce” in Jaws.
Lake Placid has the sense to go by quickly in 82 minutes as good, larky fun, supplying Mr. Croc’s attacks with several gruesome surprises, can’t-help-it giggles and, yes, even an ecological message. Even if this 1999 horror-comedy wouldn’t be one’s immediate choice to be re-packaged by Shout! Factory, how can you dislike a movie where our heroes lure the big croc with a cow hanging from a helicopter?