Lake Placid (USA, 1999)
Directed by Steve Miner
Starring Bill Pullman, Bridget Fonda, Oliver Platt, Brendan Gleeson
Whenever a film comes along which changes the landscape of cinema, it is inevitably followed by a host of derivative, inferior films which seek to capitalise upon its success. Most of these offerings will embrace some technical or narrative aspect of the pioneering work without understanding the impact or purpose of either aspect. Many films tried to imitate Paul Greengrass' shaky camera work on the later Bourne films, but did so as a gimmick rather than a means to immerse the audience in the action.
Horror Will Eat Itself', arguing that the genre is essentially cannibalistic - and looking at the 1990s and early-2000s, it's hard not to come to that conclusion.
Cradle 2 the Grave, is a very workable cinematographer who understands the aesthetic of horror. More to the point, both he and Miner understand what Spielberg was attempting to achieve through the power of suggestion to get over the physical limitations of the monster. You do see a lot more of the croc than you ever did of Bruce the shark, but the film still has the confidence to keep it hidden until it's needed.
The Evil Dead series; most transition from either one to the other (An American Werewolf in London), or pick a side early on and stick with it (Young Frankenstein). Lake Placid's biggest flaw - aside from its lack of anything remotely groundbreaking - is that it see-saws between comedy and horror to the point where we begin to lose interest in the plot. We are invested in the characters up to a point and enjoy the jokes and scares as they come, but it's not constructed as well as it could be. There is much in the monster movie sub-genre which is ripe for self-aware ridicule, like the slasher films which ultimately led to Scream. But again Miner comes up short against Craven's standards, and the film eventually drags and flounders as we build up all too slowly to the inevitable climax.
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