Released in 1999, Lake Placid is one of those rare occurrences in monster moviedom where everything comes together perfectly. It would be directed by Steve Miner who gave voice to Friday the 13th Part II and Halloween H20 and feature a script by David E. Kelley, the man who would give the world television series such as Picket Fences and L.A. Law among others. Additionally the picture would star Bill Pullman, Bridget Fonda, Oliver Platt, Brendan Gleeson and Betty White – enough star power to let the viewer know that this would not be the standard, run of the mill B movie about a giant monster. It turns out to be a campy ride, filled with humour that will put a smile on anyone’s face and it goes hand-in-hand with the horror present of the giant crocodile, often used in conjunction with said reptile.
The story finds a diver literally bitten in half that leads to an investigation of just what could have caused such a feat. With the arrival Bridget Fonda from the New York Museum of Natural History and crocodile enthusiast Oliver Platt, they join Pullman and Gleeson who look to put a stop to what is believed to be a crocodile. Those fears soon come to fruition and with a very little luck to go on, the group nearly finds themselves on the end of some very sharp teeth before finally being able to take care of the problem.
For the most part, Lake Placid is a fairly clichéd film as it features many of the same tropes seen in a number of great monster movies. Many pictures in this genre fall into that trap as it is sometimes a little hard to do anything original with a giant monster, though some do succeed at it. In this picture’s case, the makers of the film decided to focus on the characters which surround the creature and it worked far better than expected. It decidedly helped to inject as much comedy as they did because each member of the main cast ended up being quite likeable, aside from Pullman maybe, and while at times they overshadowed the crocodile, it also worked to obfuscate those familiar elements that the audience had seen many times before. The simple fact that it was well-made on every front might have also had something to do with it. There was some actual production values and that came across not just in cinematography and the name actors, but in the special effects as well with the crocodile looking both large and incredibly fearsome, especially in those scenes where it would end up dragging something underwater to feed on.
Not surprisingly, the film was left open for a sequel which would be taken advantage of not just once, but four more times with the final entry in the series crossing over with the Anaconda set of films. Though each successive movie would lessen in quality, the first one remains as one of those evergreen type of pictures that one can go back and watch multiple times over. Immensely fun and packed full of action, Lake Placid is a monster movie done right.
4 out of 5