LAKE PLACID (1999)

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Christopher

This was a movie I thought of as a super adult horror movie as a kid but as an adult it’s barely watchable. People go to a lake and are eaten by a giant crocodile. If they didn’t go they would be fine as this “monster” has been living there in peace for a very long time. Everyone is there to hunt this croc but rarely do they have any guns or weapons and if they do, they aren’t that knowledgeable about using them. Digging a pit was the first moment anyone did anything to protect themselves.

This movie was bad but I guess I like that it seems to be a the cause of a ton of terrible SyFy movies. And what’s a world without those movies?

Elizabeth

What if you heard about a lake in the middle of nearly-uninhabited land that held a rare and giant crocodile that eats people? Would you want to go to that lake to kill the crocodile (again – it lives in the water and is surrounded by land that almost no one lives on)? Or would you just leave it alone?

Leaving it alone does not seem to be an option for any human character in Lake Placid. I mean, just look at the beginning of the Wikipedia summary:

In Aroostook County, Maine, marine Fish and Game officer Walt Lawson is attacked and bitten in half by something unseen in Black Lake. Sheriff Hank Keough (Brendan Gleeson), Fish and Game officer Jack Wells (Bill Pullman), American Museum of Natural History paleontologist Kelly Scott (Bridget Fonda), and mythology professor/crocodile enthusiast Hector Cyr (Oliver Platt) go to the lake to investigate.

WHY? Why did all those fucking people go to an almost-empty lake in Maine just because someone was killed by a creature in the lake? And why did one of those people have to be a paleontologist from the American Museum of Natural History? Bridget Fonda’s presence is questioned a lot, and for good reason. But yeah, I have a problem with that premise. It’s not impossible . . . but there’s also no real threat or conflict until all the humans create one. The reason Jaws works is because the shark is off the coast of an extremely popular beach full of swimmers – not an abandoned beach.

Another problem I had: I am absolutely not an expert on reptiles or crocodiles or alligators. But I am from Louisiana and that thing looked like a fucking alligator, not a crocodile as the movie said. And it’s living in a lake? Everything about this creature looked like an alligator as opposed to a crocodile. And why a lake in Maine? It’s explained in the movie that the crocodile isn’t native to Lake Placid, but followed the one resident (Betty White)’s husband home from a fishing trip in the ocean. Okay . . . except the defining thing about a lake is that it’s surrounded by land, so I’m not sure how a crocodile would manage to “follow” a fisherman from an ocean, across miles of land, and into a lake.

I just don’t know why anyone thought this movie needed to exist. It’s so unrealistic yet the suspense is supposed to come from the movie being in the real world, not a fantasy world where anything can happen. I understand that if a wild animal is attacking you and will likely kill you, you’re going to want to kill it or hurt it in some way to save yourself. But a bunch of bumblefuck adults trying to retaliate against a crocodile who killed someone fucking with his lake  . . . not so understandable.

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2 thoughts on “LAKE PLACID (1999)

  1. Oh, man, as always, you guys’ reviews are worth a read even on crappy movies.

    I remember watching this (which is even more of an absurdity than the movie actually existing) and I thought it was okay. Not okay like “Hey, that wasn’t as bad as I thought,” but in a “Okay, that was about what I expected — the *only* upside being it wasn’t *worse* than I expected, so why did I watch this?”

    I think people can make up whatever kind of dumb trans-reality stuff they want as long as they provide a context that makes something that should be dumb make some kind of contextual sense — scientists or relevant experts not knowing a crocodile from an alligator, going to hunt some insanely dangerous and unknown creature poorly armed, etc. You can’t just make up dumb stuff and not offer some kind of honest attempt at acknowledging it and dealing with it, even if you fail at it. It’s the storytelling equivalent of sweeping the dust under the rug.

    Unfortunately, it happens a lot even in higher quality stuff. It’s just more obvious in trailer trash movies like this. There’s an ironic tension there, I think, in that we are less forgiving of that stuff in crappy movies.

    On a more high-brow point, though — Elizabeth, I think you made a great point that I’d never thought of about the contrast to Jaws. While one of Spielberg’s conscious philosophies was that the things we *don’t* see are scarier, there’s also this idea of where we encounter fear. In contrast to this movie and Texas Chainsaw, Jaws was about a fear that not only came after us rather than sitting around minding its own business, but came after us where we went to relax and have fun. The beauty of that too, though, was it was kind of a mix. Jaws wasn’t even really a monster — he was just in his element doing what he does. We weren’t exactly encroaching and, like, building housing developments pushing him out of his habitat, but we were on his front lawn, so to speak. Jaws was an eating machine, and we just happened to be playing around on his dinner table.

    Really great genre comparison to think of how and why the fear works — in a rational sense, thereby making it effective — in one but not the others. Of course, too, you also have Shaw’s performance and Spielberg at one of his most creative, visionary periods.

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