• Lake Placid

    Released by: Shout! Factory
    Released on: July 8th, 2014.
    Director: Steve Miner
    Cast: Bill Pullman, Bridget Fonda, Oliver Platt, Betty White, Brendan Gleeson
    Year: 1999
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    The Movie:

    Directed by Steve Miner, 1999’s Lake Placid begins in Maine where a small town Sheriff named Hank Keough (Brendan Gleeson) escorts a fish and wildlife officer out to the middle of a remote lake so that he can go tag some beavers. Shortly after the man heads underwater, he’s attacked by something and literally chomped in half. Word gets back to the Museum Of Natural History in New York City that a tooth that could be prehistoric was recovered from the corpse and before you know it, pretty young paleontologist Kelly Scott (Bridget Fonda) is sent to Maine to investigate. She’s a city girl and Maine isn’t on the top of her list, but as the boss she was fooling around with (Adam Arkin) has been recently busted for messing around behind her back with co-worker (the eternally beautiful Mariska Hargitay in an all too brief role), she figures it’s just as well.

    So Kelly heads to Maine where she meets up with Hank and another fish and wildlife officer named Jack Wells (Bill Pullman). They set about trying to figure out what exactly is in the lake when they’re surprised by a visit from eccentric crocodile enthusiast Hector Cyr (Oliver Platt). Kelly knows that if he’s on the scene, there’s a very good chance that there’s a crocodile nearby. And it turns out that they’re right – there’s a huge crocodile nearby and it’s pretty hungry. As to how it got there from Asia and how long it’s been there in the first place, the only one who seems to know anything is an eccentric old woman named Delores Bickerman (Betty White) with a nasty mouth on her… and she doesn’t want to cooperate. As the crew gets closer to the croc, Cyr wants to catch it while Keough want to kill it but despite their disagreements, they’re all going to have to work together if they don’t want to wind up in the massive beast’s stomach.

    Briskly paced and offering nice balance of humor and horror, Lake Placid isn’t likely to leave any sort of serious lasting impression on you but it is a fun way to kill an hour and a half. It offers up pretty much everything you’d want it to – a decent monster, some solid gore, interesting and fairly likeable characters and some witty dialogue. Through in Betty White and her infamous profanity laden take on her character and it’s easy to see why this one remains a pretty popular watch (despite the fact that its name has been soured by a few dire straight to video sequels). White steals the few scenes that she’s in but Pullman and Fonda are good as the leads. He’s a no-nonsense ‘shoot from the hip’ New Englander type (sans accent) and she’s a city girl, a fish out of water. You know they’re going to fall for one another (is there anywhere in this world a woman’s cold, cold heart that can’t be melted by the charms of Bill Pullman?) and, shucks, we kind of want them to. They anchor the movie and leave Platt and Gleeson, who are considerably more memorable and fun to watch, to provide most of the comic relief. Their characters are considerably more quirky but in many ways they mirror the other two. Gleeson’s Sheriff is a small town guy who calls it like he sees it, Platt’s character a rich eccentric who wants to do things his way. Their rivalry is the best part of the movie.

    The monster itself is a mix of practical animatronic effects and computer generated imagery. The digital effects look dated but the practical effects hold up well and as such, Lake Placid has aged with a reasonable amount of dignity. The movie is nicely shot, the lake working perfectly as the primary location for all of this nuttiness to play off of – proving a serene contrast to the chaos that inevitably unfolds. Throw in a fairly effective soundtrack work, strong cinematography and quick, efficient pacing and, yeah, this movie is still pretty much just as much fun was it was in 1999.


    Lake Placid debuts on Blu-ray from Shout! Factory’s horror imprint Scream Factory in AVC encoded 1080p high definition framed at 2.35.1 in a transfer that is generally quite nice. Colors look really good here, the greens of the forest and the browns of the tree trunks offering up really impressive, natural looking hues alongside the pristine lake used as the primary location. Skin tones look lifelike and natural and the blues of the sky are bright and bold without ever looking boosted. During the few underwater scenes some minor banding and compression artifacts pop up but they’re not all that obvious nor are they all that distracting. Black levels are pretty strong and the image is clean, free of any obvious print damage with only some very fine grain visible.

    English language tracks are provided in DTS-HD 5.1 and 2.0 Stereo Master Audio formats with optional subtitles available in English only. Both tracks sound nice but understandably the 5.1 mix is the more aggressive and enjoyable of the two, offering some fun surround activity throughout the movie. Levels are nicely balanced and there’s good directionality evident during much of the film, the more action oriented scenes where the crocodile attacks being the most obvious. There are times where the track uses the rear channels less than you might hope but otherwise, the audio here is very good.

    The main extra on the disc is a half hour long featurette made up of recently shot interviews with director Steve Miner, leading man Bill Pullman, director of photography Daryn Okada and a few of the guys who handled the special effects work on the movie. It’s a pretty decent look back at the making of the movie, some of the challenges that arose on set, where some of the ideas came from and what it was like working with the lovely and talented Betty White on the movie.

    Aside from that we get a five minute long vintage making of featurette that features some footage shot on set during the production as well as some quick interviews with the cast, a few minutes of test footage showing the animatronic crocodile at work, a couple of TV spots, the film’s original theatrical trailer, a decent sized still gallery, animated menus and chapter selection. The Blu-ray case comes housed inside a cardboard slipcover and the insert cover art is reversible.

    The Final Word:

    Lake Placid isn’t a masterpiece but it is a whole lot of fun, just good popcorn style entertainment through and through. It features some fun effects set pieces, a good cast and one of Betty White’s most memorable appearances and on Blu-ray it looks and sounds very good. Through in a few decent extras and this is a solid release all the way around.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!