Saturday, November 21, 2015

Movie #335: Lake Placid

Lake Placid is a late-90s horror/comedy written by the creator of Ally McBeal and starring Bridget Fonda, Bill Pullman, Oliver Platt, Betty White, and Brendan Gleeson. That works about as well as you'd expect.

Kelly (Fonda) is a paleontologist who gets sent to Maine to look at a tooth found in the body of a Fish and Game Warden who got bit in half in Black Lake (yes, the titular lake isn't even in the movie). That premise is pretty flimsy on its own; I'd just about buy it as an in-game justification for getting an RPG group together, maybe, but then she goes out on the lake with the local (surviving) game warden Jack Wells (Pullman) and sheriff Hank (Gleeson), and they are shortly joined by rich crocodile-obsessed nutball Hector Cyr (Platt, clearly loving every minute of this). Like, these are the PCs in a game of Chill 1st Edition, folks.

Anyway, the lake is in fact home to a giant croc, which kills a couple of deputies and some local wildlife (and a cow, generously led to the water by the crazy old lady who lives on the lake, played by 90s Betty White, who likes to say "cocksucker") before the envoys team manages to drug it and trap it, just in time for its mate to pop up and get its head blown off by the sheriff's immense grenade launcher gun.

So, I've long held this movie up as an example of what happens when you spend your minuscule budget in a horror movie on the cast instead of the effects, except that the effects that jump out as a kind of crappy are the CG effects at the end. The practical effects were designed by Stan Winston, and they look pretty baller. But still, the cast. The interplay between Gleeson and Platt is especially fun, as they go from enemies to frenemies over the course of the movie (every time Gleeson's accent slips, drink!). Fonda is appropriate neurotic (according the featurette, this was a concept priority for the movie), and Pullman is his usual laconic self. The death toll in the movie is a whole two, and while there are some grossout moments, as a horror movie it's pretty tame.

This is creature horror in that awkward 90s-transitioning-to-00s phase, but again, the cast kind of makes it, and it's got a special place in my heart.

My grade: B
Rewatch value: Medium-high

Next up: Land of the Dead