In the late 90s, writer/producer David E. Kelley was at a career high, having created several hit television shows including “Chicago Hope,” “Ally McBeal,” and “The Practice.” However, there were also times when he took a break from television to work on screenplays for film projects, one of which was the horror-comedy “Lake Placid.” The film tells the story of a vicious attack that occurs at a usually serene lake in Maine. The mysterious attack was witnessed by a local sheriff (Brendan Gleeson), but as to what carried it out is unknown, with only half a corpse and one of the creature’s teeth left over. A Fish and Game officer (Bill Pullman) is called in to investigate with the help of the sheriff and a paleontologist (Bridget Fonda) in order to find out what’s going on. They are eventually joined by an eccentric millionaire (Oliver Platt), who has a thing for swimming with crocodiles, which as it turns out is exactly what has found its way into the lake. However, this is no ordinary crocodile. This one is big enough to sever the head from a moose and swallow a bear whole, meaning our little team is going to have their work cut out for them, especially since they mean to capture it alive if possible.
“Lake Placid” is a film that is obviously meant to be taken as a horror comedy, and there are several spots where its over-the-top style does work, but even about halfway through, one can easily tell that the film is stuck in a bit of a repetitive loop. We start with an attack, which is followed by the team getting together to discuss what to do. When they decide to go on the lake in canoes to see if they can spot the creature, there’s another attack, followed by the team regrouping to discuss what to do. When they come up with another plan, they try it out, resulting in another attack, and more regrouping to discuss what to do. With such a repetitive nature, it’s not surprising that the audience’s interest in what happens diminishes after a while.
The comedy side of things works decently enough, including some cheesy looking CG scenes of the crocodile attacking, as well as an amusing running gag that has Fonda’s paleontologist falling out of just about every vehicle she gets in. Then there are parts of it that don’t work quite as well, specifically a cameo involving the delightful Betty White, who tries to inject a little more black comedy into the story, but she ends up being a rather awkward addition instead. However, the tone that Kelley was attempting to reach for his genre hybrid works more than it doesn’t, leading to a few interesting mixes of laughs and gasps, thanks in no small part to the well-chosen cast of Pullman, Fonda, Platt, and Gleeson.
While portions of the film do work pretty well, you can’t help but wonder how much of an improvement a little variation would have had on the entire project. With a film like this, it’s hard to tell if Kelley was trying to pull another one on the audience by having this be a one-note film like many horror movies or if he truly couldn’t think of anything else to do with his killer croc premise. Thanks to its campy tone, it ends up being better than many flawed films of the genre that he’s poking fun at, but in the process, he simply falls into one too many pitfalls himself.
Shout! Factory brings “Lake Placid” to Blu-ray in a 2.35:1, 1080p High Definition transfer of outstanding quality. Most of the film takes place in the dark, murky area of the lake, including the entire nighttime climax, but the picture remains flawlessly sharp, allowing you to see everything without a single issue. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio also has no problems to report, presenting all elements of the soundtrack at perfect levels. Overall, it’s the same fantastic quality that we’ve come to expect from Shout! Factory.
Making of Lake Placid: A 30-minute “Making of” featurette that features interviews with director Steve Miner, star Bill Pullman, DP Daryn Okada, and members of the special effects team. There’s a lot of interesting info presented here, so it’s definitely worth watching.
Vintage Featurette: A six-minute featurette from when the movie was first released. It features a few brief interviews with the cast and crew that are very superficial, so it’s easily skippable.
Croc Test Footage: It’s exactly what it states in the title: several minutes of test footage. This is another one that’s easily skippable.
Behind the Scenes Gallery: A gallery of images that is somewhat interesting to look at.
Shout! Factory has once again done a marvelous job at resurrecting another cult classic on Blu-ray with a pristine transfer and a great selection of special features, but the film itself suffers a little too much from its repetitive nature, making you wish that Kelley had done a little more with the premise than just reusing the same group of sequences over and over again. That being said, there are a few amusing moments, so what we get is a film that partially works, but just not quite enough to garner a recommendation.
Available on Blu-ray Starting tomorrow.
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