LAKE PLACID **** USA 1999 Dir: Steve Miner. 82 mins
A (relatively) big budget attempt to fuse the fashionably sarcastic wit and bitchy character banter of Ally McBeal scribe David E Kelly with a John Sayles-ish take on monster movie conventions, LAKE PLACID was a rare 90’s Hollywood creature feature. It unfolds charmingly in a tiny Maine community where a diver is bitten in half and severed moose heads keep turning up, so unflappable local Sheriff Brendan Gleeson calls in neurotic paleontologist Bridget Fonda and oddball mythology professor Oliver Platt.
The 30 foot Asian-Pacific croc has migrated to Maine and been fed on a steady cattle supply courtesy of batty widow Betty White for six years, though it’s a rare monster movie in which the main characters fight to sedate the creature rather than kill it. Unencumbered by extraneous sub-plots and pared down at 80 minutes, this unusually finds the central menace more admirable and sympathetic than the petty, destructive human characters. LAKE PLACID cannily balances straight JAWS-inspired suspense, jolts (there’s a fine surprise beheading and a fabulous moment with an ill-fated grizzly) with Kelly’s infectious vein of knowing wit. The relentless sarcasm and bitterness of the protagonists is hugely entertaining, with the deadpan Gleeson stealing it (asked if a severed toe is a missing person he’s looking for, Gleeson drily notes “He seemed taller…”) and White scoring as the foul mouthed granny who shouts “If I had a dick, this is the part where I’d tell you to suck it!” The running gags are appealing, the blend of 90’s CGI and Stan Winston creature FX is successful, and there’s a cute tip of the hat to KING KONG for the final scenes of the sedated croc safely transported away from the town.
Lake Placid (Trailer)
LAKE PLACID 2 ** USA 2007 Dir: David Flores. 83 mins
Many major studio, theatrical horrors spawned straight to DVD franchises in the 90’s and 2000’s, and this heavy handedly strives to duplicate LAKE PLACID’s mix of sarcasm, droll comedy and grisly monster action, while budget cuts result into a standard-issue, chintzy-looking Sy-Fy Channel CG croc. LP 2 unfolds around the same Maine lake, where the fresh ensemble of characters are as flip and unfazed by the horrible deaths of friends and colleagues as their predecessors. While the Sheriff stumbles across severed limbs and photogenic teenagers flirt with each other, a lazy bit of writing casts Cloris Leachman as the mad, foul-mouthed older sister of the mad, foul-mouthed old woman who fed cattle to the monster crocs in the original. Stock characters include a smug great white hunter right out of ALLIGATOR and a pair of gratuitously integrated topless airheads (frolicking in slo-mo!), but the film strains too hard to be funny and the inclusion of four poorly animated monster crocs for the price of one is more of a hindrance than an enhancement. It’s goofy and knows it, and vaguely likeable, but too many of the jokes are dated (BLAIR WITCH gags almost a decade too late, a big bad Mommy croc called Martha Stewart) and there is at least one hokey “rabbit-scare” too many.
Lake Placid 2 (Trailer)
LAKE PLACID 3 ** USA 2010 93 Mins Dir : Geoff Furst.
Sony’s transformation of LAKE PLACID into a Sy-fy Channel DVD franchise perks up a tad for the third chapter, thanks to a pleasant indulgence in old-fashioned exploitation movie goodies. The expected half-hearted attempts to duplicate the original’s flippant humour and banter are relieved by a bevy of hot naked chicks and splashy gore: a dog gets eaten! Sex and death in the first five minutes! Full frontal nudity! British model / actress Kacey Barnfield steals the show as one of a small group of teen hikers who either wears tight tops or takes them off. This film’s low rent Thomas Jane type plays an EPA zoologist who moves with his trophy wife (she looks like Megan Fox’s older sister) and their kid to their aunt’s lakeside cabin; said aunt was a crazy old croc-feeder who kept a chainsaw in the fridge. The kid picks up where she left off and spends two years secretly feeding the reptiles ‘til they grow to monster-size. A splendidly grizzled Yancy Butler plays a badass croc-hunter, Michael Ironside is the Sheriff and one of the guys actually uses the line “You had me after ‘hello’ “ to a bimbo. It’s slick, watchable and pacey enough in an undemanding fashion, complete with JAWS homages and jokey dialogue (“What are the chances we’re gonna get lost and die horribly?”).. and the kind of amateurish, sub-video game CG monster FX to which we were accustomed by the 21st century.
Lake Placid 3 (Trailer)
LAKE PLACID THE FINAL CHAPTER ** USA 2012 86 mins Dir : Don Michael Paul.
One-time genre sex symbol Yancy Butler is now the gruff, foul-mouthed, masculine lead of Sy-Fy Channel sequels like this, surviving her duty on the interchangeable LAKE PLACID 3 and reluctantly siding with the “tree-hugging bullshit” of those who want to capture and save a rampaging croc. ANGEL’s Elizabeth Rohm is the Sheriff whose cute teen daughter flirts with the local hunk in between reading “Heart of Darkness” and getting dissed by the frosty local beauty (“Who reads?”). Played by Brit Scarlett Byrne, said hottie gets her boobs out immediately prior to having her head bitten off. In a pointless cameo, Robert Englund phones it in as the leader of a croc-hunting mob, sadly given the line “Come to Daddy, you fucking bitch”. Bogged down by dull love interest stuff and lots of phoney CG gore, this third sequel has appealing leads and occasional laughs. In the latter camp is the moment in which a pervy bus driver has his knob bitten off while perving at a pair of topless teens unconvincingly splashing water on each other during a nocturnal flirty swim. Butler capably maintains the cutting sarcasm of the original, always available for a pithy riposte in the right situation (to a guy who has just had his fingers bitten off : “Jacking off’s gonna be a bitch!”).
Lake Placid The Final Chapter (Trailer)
LAKE PLACID VS ANACONDA ** USA 2015 Dir: A.B. Stone. 88 mins
Hook-handed, one-legged sub-Long John Silver Robert Englund and his cronies capture a giant croc from “Black Lake”, with demented plans to genetically experiment with croc and anaconda DNA. Everything goes quickly pear shaped and both CG beasts escape from the lab, heading to “Clear Lake”, where a bunch of shallow, bitchy sorority girls are spending Rush Weekend. Another shot-in-Bulgaria DVD sequel, this one combines two Sony franchises that have already accumulated four movies apiece, and duplicates the previous PLACID sequels in its slasher movie style disrobing of various nubile beauties at regular intervals. The bog-standard Company villains say things like “I need those baby crocacondas alive!” while, in her third PLACID sequel, the always watchable Yancy Butler characteristically cuts through all the nonsense: “This is really starting to get disgusting…” Too many of the cheap gags are familiar (the coroner who eats fried chicken during autopsies, the goofy deputy who pukes in bins) and the anaconda largely forgets to show up for most of the first hour, though kudos to the sarcastic, tattooed goth chick and the blonde bimbo who saves her own skin by pushing a conveniently placed, unattractive outcast into the croc’s mouth. Post SHARKNADO, the film includes an inevitable moment in which a guy swallowed by the croc blows it to smithereens from inside.
Lake Placid VS Anaconda (Trailer)
Anaconda franchise corner entry can be found by clicking here.
Reviews by Steven West