Friday, March 2, 2012


What is GrindhouseFest?

Jim decides that the boring old academic press history books he's been buying are great for creating satisfying background color and detail and not so great for inspiration for SUPERNATURAL HORROR! Also, all he's been watching lately are TV cop dramas (NCIS, CSI, New Tricks, Waking the Dead, Mentalist, etc etc etc) which don't exactly translate well to his creative endeavors.

So when Jim found out Amazon over here only had one copy of Vol 5 of the Nightshade CAS collection, he also noticed lots and lots of creepy movies were on sale CHEAP. He'd never heard of a lot of them, and most of the ones he's heard of, he knows nothing about. Whether they were excellent or crap, they'd be good inspiration. So he ordered OODLES OF THEM!

And I will talk about them in a sudden shift from third person to first.


This movie was crap. I knew it would be.

The Writer: David E. Kelley (a bunch of godawful TV shit that makes the world worse, but Picket Fences was fun)
The Director: Steve Miner (Friday the 13th Part II + Part III, House [the 80s movie], and the execreble 2008 Day of the Dead "remake")
The Stars: Bridget Fonda (the reason I wanted to see it! Sue me! Oh, and FLASHBACK LINDA!!!!), Bill Pullman (Lone Starr!), Oliver Platt (Randy Steckle!), Brendan Gleeson (Mad-Eye Moody is the only other thing I remember him doing??)

The Deal:

A giant crocodile (that is recognized within the movie as both extremely unusual but not supernaturally so - the "prehistoric" stuff on the DVD box isn't part of the deal in the movie) has taken up residence in a lake in Maine (!!) and a rather eclectic bunch takes the lead in dealing with it.

The Good Stuff:

"Part Mystery. Part Thriller. Parts Missing." is a cool tagline.

All of the "I hate you!" snark between the characters is amusing, and while they call it a "horror comedy" all the funny stuff happens when nobody's in any danger, so no harm no foul there. The group does remind me of RPG PCs in that they argue and cut each other down for absolutely no reason at all beyond the "I'm just playing my character!" excuse.

Betty White has had one role for well over a decade now: "Senile old bat who says inappropriate things for comedic effect." I have to admit, it never gets old.

The Bad:

This movie is dumber than a box of rocks. They couldn't figure out what kind of movie they were making... or, maybe they thought they were doing something clever and didn't realize their cleverness undermined the meat of the movie?

It's Jaws with a crocodile . That's the movie. The whole setup, from the diver that gets eaten at the beginning to the "fish out of water" (so to speak) lead character to the autopsy scene with a tooth... it's Jaws. Not very original, but that's not a problem. "Is it good/effective?" and "is it original?" are completely independent concerns.

But for the formula to work, one thing is necessary: the creature has to be a monster in deed as well as in name. It's got to kill people. It's got to be a threat.

What does Lake Placid do? It has half the main characters arguing to save the creature because it's a miracle of nature, to the point where the key tension at the end is not survival, not "who lives or dies?", it's entirely "Can we capture the poor creature and relocate it to a more suitable habitat instead of being forced to kill it?"

For that to work, the monster can't be all that bad. The shark in Jaws killed a teenage girl and a little boy. And that guy in the cove. And Quint, one of the main characters!

Who did the crocodile kill? Two meddling government workers whose deaths were well telegraphed (when that one deputy joined Our Heroes on the boat I was thinking "Who's this guy?" Then "aaahh, he's going to die, isn't he?" and two seconds later, CHOMP!) and a couple animals. And the croc taking down a bear was hardly as cool as we were meant to think.

But the central cast? SAFE! They make weak attempts to ratchet up the tension but does anyone really believe Oliver Platt was going to get bitten in half like some nameless schmoe?

(at least this crappy Andromeda Strain remake mini-series that's on TV as I type this had the balls to kill Ricky Shroeder, ya know?)

Yet all this soft shit has a few bits of real monster/horror movie gore in there. They don't shy away from showing the guy that's been bit in half. And the one guy's head goes CHOMP real well... (although the croc obviously doesn't like the taste of people since the severed parts of people eaten in the lake are repeatedly found on shore). It wants to be a monster movie, sometimes, but it's so compartmentalized and obvious it's can't even reach the high mark of "cheesy."

Also, HOW MANY GODDAMN TIMES CAN BRIDGET FONDA FALL INTO THE WATER IN ONE MOVIE? After the tenth or twentieth time it gets kind of old. And you'd think that at least once it could be as appealing as "Bridget Fonda gets all wet" leads one to hope.

The Grade: D

It could have been a trashy, ill-conceived monster movie and still have been fun. Instead, we got nuthin'. What should have been a monster hunt instead is some sort of eco-friendly animal gathering expedition with the backdrop of four people trying to out-snark each other. Whoop de fucking doo.

Gaming Inspiration: Not much here. "There's a 10HD Crocodile in the lake" is not much of an adventure hook and there's not much else here.

(BONUS COINCIDENCE! I wrote this review up two days ago, and checking the TV listings for yesterday... LAKE PLACID 2 WAS GOING TO BE ON TELEVISION! How awful could that be? Couldn't wait to find out. :D)


This was a made-for-TV movie (Sci Fi Channel, to let you know the level of movie we're discussing). But all is not lost, because THIS IS FINLAND so it's unrated DVD version of the movie on normal everyone-gets-it TV. WITH TITS!

The actors aren't famous (the only guy I recognized was Doug's supervisor from King of Queens, that's how bad it is, not counting Cloris Leachman filling in as Betty White's character from the first one's sister, so I guess there's that), and they aren't very good.

The special effects are embarrassingly bad (especially after part 1's work by Stan Winston). A commenter on IMDB said "They would have been better off using a guy in a crocodile costume," and it's true.

Honestly, the movie is bad by almost every standard.

Almost every standard. Not quite every standard.

On the "this is a trashy monster movie" standard it's pretty good. People die, even those that don't show up just to do so. There are Random Teenage Camper victims. Lots of bad-to-actually-amusing dialogue as the writers obviously knew they were writing crap so they could have some fun with it.

But there was some actual good stuff: Real "oh no will they die?" tension, and "oh no that one died, crap!" tension. In a bad movie sense, but really, this is Monster Movie 101 stuff that the bottom-of-the-barrel sequel got right and the Hollywood Theatrical Production didn't. There's even a moment of honest-to-god very cool badassery seen in this movie.

Oh, and THEY MAKE FUN OF THE "Ooohh let's SAVE it!" nonsense of the first movie.

No-name production crew with not a tenth of the budget or talent makes a better movie than Big Name Hollywood's part one and rubs their nose in it. Rock on.

Plus the character back-stories are MORE INTERESTING and MORE RELEVANT TO WHAT HAPPENS than those of Lake Placid part 1. "My boss who I was sleeping with is now screwing another one of my co-workers" may be more sophisticated than "I saved him from being mauled by a lion," but which background fits in more with a GIANT CROCODILE THAT EATS PEOPLE movie?

That's really got to hurt - you can almost (almost!) not blame B-listers-aspiring-to-be-A-listers for making a kinder, gentler monster movie, but to have inferior characterization than the hackwork made-for-Sci-Fi-Channel sequel? BRUTAL.

It's still not a good movie though. Its greatest achievement is highlighting just how bad Lake Placid 1 was.

But you'll smile while watching.

The Grade: C

Brilliantly shot, written, and executed.

Boring as fuck.

European art-house with a couple bits of brutality.

The plot: A child falls out a window and dies while its parents are fucking. They can't deal. The REALLY can't deal.

It all goes to hell... eventually. It feels like the whole movie is a slow (so very slow) burn to an explosive climax, but no, that would be interesting to watch. Even the "explosive climax" is rather devoid of tension and excitement.

The big EEWWWWW moment is the woman snipping off her own clit with scissors, but the way they shot it (in close-up) ruined the effect for me because the cut between the shot of the woman's real hoo-hoo and the special effect hoo-hoo that gets snipped is WAY TOO OBVIOUS. You need to make it seamless for such a shot to work, and since I was watching this expecting a horror movie (my fault, not the writer/director's), that was the "money shot" and it was worth about a dime.

By the time the Green Goblin strangles her, about the only thing to say is "IT'S ABOUT DAMN TIME."

The Grade: F





  4. Have you seen this ? It's on netflix if you have that. It could be a cool hook that the pcs start out as a neutral 3rd party observing/helping some killer/monster only to have it twisted up at the end.

    It'd probably too railroady so I'm not sure if that would make a good adventure but it's a pretty good popcorn flick nonetheless.

  5. You didn't like Ant-christ? Or at least liked Lake Placid more? Man! I honestly can't fathom that, subjective opinion being what it is and all.

  6. Is there more than one talking animal in Anti-Christ? Not counting Willem Dafoe I mean.