Lake Placid: An Underrated Gem
Lake Placid is a horror comedy from 1999 starring Bill Pullman, Bridget Fonda, Oliver Platt, and Brendan Gleeson. Growing up, I always recognized the VHS/DVD cover whenever I went to the local video store. Like most, I assumed it was another bad JAWS ripoff. This film wasn’t a box office slam dunk and it received negative reviews. This film is always grouped with films like Anaconda (1997), I guess since they’re both about giant reptilian monsters? Anaconda is a bad film but Lake Placid is not.
I’ll never forget my first viewing of this film. I was with a good friend and we decided to watch this film. I went in with low expectations and ended up having a great time. I thought to myself, why the hell is this labeled a bad film? For what it’s going for, I think it succeeds in spades. I’ll be happy to explain why. If you haven’t seen the film, then I’d highly recommend it.
The main reason why this film works so well for me is the characters. The characters are all fascinating and I thought they were all perfectly casted. I loved the conflict between the characters because they’re all different. They all have different ideologies and motivations that constantly clash. Their banter and interactions are the highlights of the film. The script gave them all distinct dialogue that matches with their character.
Speaking of the script, it’s very well written. It’s a very funny film. The characters have their own comedic moments that really shine. This film is clearly inspired by JAWS but that's not a bad thing. It took the bones of the JAWS story but made the story its own. I liked the decisions the story makes and the overall choices in general. This film, like JAWS, is all about the characters trying to figure out a way to stop the monster. It’s not just about the monster. JAWS is my favorite film of all time and I don’t think this film is a complete knockoff.
Bill Pullman as Jack Wells. First off, what a badass name. Jack Wells is in charge of stopping the monster and Bill Pullman is awesome as the lead. He’s got some of the best dialogue in the film. Bill Pullman is one of my favorite actors. I think he’s severely underrated in general. His performance in this film is my favorite of his filmography.
Bridget Fonda as Kelly Scott is a very good character. She’s the fish out of water (no pun intended), the one character the audience follows. I like how she gets involved with the plot. She’s only sent to Maine because of some drama at her work so her boss can avoid her. Her reaction to what’s going on is hilarious. I liked her romance with Bill Pullman’s character. In the end, she had the best arc.
Oliver Platt as Hector Cyr… he might be the best character in the film. Jack Wells is awesome but Hector Cyr is so damn funny. He’s an eccentric millionaire who’s obsessed with crocodiles. He literally flies into the film on a helicopter and he steals the show. His banter with all the characters, especially Brendan Gleeson’s Sheriff Hank Keough, are some of the best moments of the film. His dialogue is hilarious. My favorite line is “I know I’m a fat rich nut job wacko who's about as ground as a street pigeon.” He also does the craziest and dumbest shit in the film but I’m happy he survives in the end.
Brendan Gleeson as Sheriff Hank Kenough is the straight man of the film. His performance is good and he has some funny moments as well. His rivalry with Hector Cyr is really good. I also felt bad for him the most because he saw some messed up stuff.
The crocodile is an awesome monster. I thought it was terrifying. Like JAWS, the filmmakers used the creature just enough. The effects are amazing. Stan Winston’s team did a tremendous job on the practical effect. It looked so real and even the CGI isn't that bad. There’s one scene that made my jaw drop. A bear comes out of nowhere and frightens the characters… until the monster comes out of the water and kills it. We finally see the massive monster our characters have to face. I remember my reaction, I went "Holy shit that was awesome!" The outcome of the monster is also unique. The characters actually catch it and plan on studying it. In the end, it survives and so do the characters. I like that choice.
This film is also really intense and creepy. The underrated scenes with the murky water and forest setting added so much to the film. This film had brilliant moments of tension that had me on the edge of my seat, especially the scene where Hector Cyr goes on his own and almost becomes food for the monster.
The film is also well shot. I liked the cinematography. The music is good. It’s very well made from a technical standpoint. Also shoutout to Betty White. She is very funny in this film.
Overall, I don’t understand the hate. I can understand not loving it like myself but to call this bad? I don’t understand. Every film goes for something and I think what this film is going for, it succeeds. It’s by far one of the most underrated films I’ve ever seen and it’s number 20 on my favorite films of all time list!