Exploitation Retrospect | The Journal of Junk Culture and Fringe Media
Lake Placid (1999)
20th Century Fox Home Video | Review by Dan Taylor

Lake Placid starring Bridget FondaWith JAWS getting a much-deserved 25th Anniversary release, one wonders if we'll see a return to the Big Beast flicks of the mid-to-late 70s and early 80s. Sure, the big toothy one is certainly the grandaddy of the genre, as well as one of its most winning entries from a script and character standpoint, but that just made it easy to forget such classics as TENTACLES (big octopus + Shelly Winter), GRIZZLY (big bear), FOOD OF THE GODS (big everything) and HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP (big, sex-crazed gill people).

So what's a two-bit hack like Steve Miner to do? How about thank the gods in heaven when David E. Kelley (ie, hot tv guy of the moment) wants to make LAKE PLACID, which is little more than JAWS IN MAINE with a crocodile filling in for the Great White Shark. Actually, LP is more akin to Joe Dante's JAWS-inspired PIRANHA than the source material, but that's fodder for a totally separate argument.

After some pleasantly unexpected gore in the first few minutes (not that the killing was unexpected, but the level of gore certainly earned the flick more than a passing notice from this reviewer), the scenery shifts to NYC where the perky and lovely Bridget Fonda is laboring as a jilted paleontologist. But not for long. In what I found a kinda confusing and strained twist, Fonda's boss sends her to Maine to assist in the identification of the lake creature. Just so he can lay pipe with his new babe without BF hangin' 'round? Dude, that's when you try and work the two of them into the sack together or at least get a good hair-pulling, sweater-ripping catfight going in the lunchroom! Me finds it a bit of a stretch, but what the hell?

Central Casting is filled out by the stock Big Monster Flick Personnel. There's the Cute Fish & Game Guy That Doesn't Want to Pop a Boner for Bridget Fonda (Bill Pullman); The Gruff But Lovable Small Town Sheriff You Just Know'll Come Through in the End (Brendan Gleason); The Kooky Rich Guy With the Bad Wig Who Thinks Crocodiles Are God-Like and Wants to Swim with Them (Oliver Platt); and, The Sociopathic Foul-Mouthed Old Lady (the hard-to-look-at Betty White).

This motley crew spends the next 70 minutes spewing Kelley's hip and ironic dialogue (which some people told me was supposed to be uproarious) while they run, swim, fly, and hide from Stan Winston's special effectsy croc.

Yawn. While Miner has certainly graduated from his woefully inept early work (FRIDAY THE 13TH 2 & 3, HOUSE, SOUL MAN, WARLOCK) and recent slasher homages (the painful H20: HALLOWEEN), LAKE PLACID lacks any of the crackle or spark of say PIRANHA... or even GRIZZLY. Hell, with zero real jolts and only a couple low-key laughs (thanks to Platt's keen timing) the laborious UP FROM THE DEPTHS is more entertaining!

After the likes of this, ANACONDA, and DEEP BLUE SEA, I wonder if we're not already knee-deep in a genre rebirth.

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