31 Days of Guilty Pleasures – ‘Lake Placid’

Jason McDonald

A few years ago I did a daily countdown to Halloween that featured some of my favorite scares from 31 different horror movies. This year I’m bringing back the feature, but this time we’re taking a look at some of my favorite guilty pleasures.

There’s no rhyme or reason to how these movies are being listed, so the placement on the countdown doesn’t denote any sort of ranking. Also, my definition of guilty pleasure is a movie that ranges from either being not very good to outright bad, but there’s something about it that still makes it endearing to watch

1999 was a fun year for horror fans.  This is the year that brought us “The Sixth Sense”, “The Blair Witch Project”, “The Mummy”, and “Deep Blue Sea.” It’s easy to forget that in the same year we got “Lake Placid.” This monster movie had an interesting mix of talent behind the camera.  The film was directed by Steve Miner, who is best known for directing “Friday the 13th 2 & 3”, and written by David E. Kelly.  Having written only four feature films, Kelly doesn’t have a whole lot of movie experience, but he’s damn near untouchable when it comes to television.  This is the guy who created shows like “Doogie Howser”, “Ally McBeal”, and more recently “Mr. Mercedes.”  So while not a horror expert, Kelly would be the kind of person you’d want to write snappy sarcastic characters in a horror comedy.

“Lake Placid” is a simple concept. It’s all about a giant crocodile terrorizing people in a small lake community.  In order to hunt the crocodile down local law enforcement (Brendan Gleeson) teams with up with a Fish and Game officer (Bill Pullman), a paleontologist (Bridget Fonda), and a croc expert (Oliver Platt).  And of course this mix of crazy eccentrics leads to people butting heads and hilarity ensuing.  “Lake Placid” is by no means a wealth of smart comedy, but I find it’s kind of humor endearing as it’s just odd people reacting to an odd situation.  It’s a little eccentric, but that somehow makes it feel more grounded.  Plus you got Betty White telling people to suck her dick, so that’s nice.

Sadly “Lake Placid” wasn’t a financial hit when it was released.  The film managed to debut at third place behind “Eyes Wide Shut” and “American Pie” and only earned about $31 million in the US.  Not even enough to cover the film’s budget.  However, that didn’t stop them from making a sequel . . . seven years later.  For some reason in 2007 someone thought the world was ready to finally revisit Lake Placid with a SyFy made for television movie starring John Schneider. From there four more sequels were made including a crossover film in which the crocodile from Lake Placid fights the snake from Anaconda.

My guess as to why these movies were suddenly in demand is because doing CGI on a big croc must be easy.  They’re just slow lumbering beasts that don’t need to move too much.  And then for close ups you can just have a pair of giant jaws munching on something.  Still, it’s quite impressive that the CGI in this 2015 trailer is somehow worse than the CGI in the 1999 clip.  But maybe it’s gotten better.  A new “Lake Placid” sequel was actually released this year and features Joe Pantoliano of all people. Lets see how that trailer looks.

The tone seems to be going for something a bit more serious than previous movies.  Like they’re super pushing for the croc to be scary this time around.  It’s an interesting move, but since it’s a SyFy movie still I’m not gonna hold out too much hope.

Still I’m deeply fascinated that a movie like “Lake Placid” has managed to keep thriving after all these years.  It may be regulated to the direct-to-DVD market, but it’s still nice to see the property wasn’t completely forgotten by time.


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