Tuesday, September 2, 2008

More Croc Crap



I didn't mean to see two killer croc movies in a row, honest. There's a universal unconscious interconnectedness to these things, like when you're thinking about a plate of shrimp and someone says "plate" or "shrimp"....

There was half an evening to kill in Cleveland, the day after the Devo fan convention. No wheels, stuck at Motel 6. Ordered a pizza, turned on the Spectravision and vegged the old fashioned way; with a film destined to be viewed on pay cable by motel denizens nearly ten years later - Lake Placid.

Having not given this flick a second thought since deciding not to see it back in 1999, I was immediately struck by the sheer volume of sarcasm that used to pervade 1990s movies. Scream certainly put gratuitous snarkiness into overdrive for horror flicks, and the killer animal subgenre was no exception. I mean, Bats probably had loathsome one-dimensional sarcasm robots as stars, too.

Placid's cast is solidly A-minus, making the glibness all the more unbearable than if hamfistedly conveyed by nobodies. Here, they're just good enough to be awful. Bridget Fonda is a beautiful lady scientist from New York who goes to investigate the titular lake and hates the local hick cops who she has to work with, Bill Pullman and Brendan Gleeson. The latter is actually pretty good since he has to take the bulk of abuse not only from Fonda but Oliver Platt as a completely unconvincing rich eccentric crocodile hunter (before there was a Steve Irwin.)

Every scene with these four is like an unfunny sitcom that never ends. The crocodile scenes...the late great Stan Winston does justice to practical shots of the floating gator on a superficial level but the beast has no personality. He's barely in it; the cast is only intermittently in danger so that they can go ashore out of harm's way and exchange more witlessness. When the third act brings the croc on land, the limitations of and over-reliance upon CGI was another unpleasant 90s flashback. The Rogue CGI gator is significantly better when we see him, and he's got character beyond being a special effect.

Steve Miner directed this thing, he of Friday the 13th parts 2 & 3 and House. I always forget he was busy directing post-Scream irony-horror during the 90s. Recently he directed the abominable direct-to-video remake of Day of the Dead, making House his artistic peak if only by sheer volume of rubber monsters.

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