natural horror

Lake Placid

Placid rhymes with…and this limp d*cked effort, best described as Jaws with Claws, wastes a lot of top-drawer acting talent and awesome effects.

In fact, the above alone could count as a uber-succinct review of Lake Placid, but let’s dive beneath the brackish waters and explore a bit more, eh?

Maine has never been so mountainous (as cheapo movie aficionados, we recognize the locale as obviously British Columbia) and for a movie set in New England, there are no Peter Griffin accents, only central casting types.

There’s an attack in Black Lake, and the animal perp left a calling card: a tooth. A paleontologist (Bridget Fonda) is brought in from New York’s American Museum of Natural History to investigate, because as we know from the tour manager in This is Spinal Tap — nearby Boston is “not much of a college town.”

That sets off the Big Apple city slicker / hick cop dynamic, but not only is Fonda’s Kelly ill-prepared for the bush, she’s terrified of of the outdoors (seems like a first for a paleontologist).

A mythology expert, a croc-obsessed shyster Hector Cyr (Oliver Platt of Chicago Med) donates his time and equipment to help get to the bottom of…well, the mystery and um, Black Lake (“they were going to call it Lake Placid, but it turns out that already exists.”).

Meanwhile, a mammoth crocodile is taking out moose, and making cops half the men they used to be (there’s some dynamic practical / animatronic / CG effects courtesy of Terminator dude Stan Winston).

But what holds Lake Placid back, is the weird tonal dynamics. Sure, there are some amusing tongue-in-cheek humor, in keeping with the kind of thing you might get from John Sayles (Alligator), but it’s more goofy than gallows.

The cast, which includes Bill Pullman as a Fish and Game official, Mariska Hargitay as “the other woman” in New York and even Betty White, is game…but things get silly and sluggish.

Lake Placid has one fantastic set piece, which is not worth spoiling here, but is worth half a star in of itself.

**3/4 (out of 5)

The Nest

Jaws with bugs? Another in a long line of “substitute a shark with your favorite killer critter here” movies, The Nest (1988) is a creature feature that puts the bête noire of apartment-dwellers at the forefront: the ever-icky cockroach. 

Set in an ostensible “New England village,” a la the Spielberg chomper, this low budget affair comes complete with palm trees, not exactly indigenous to the State of Massachusetts, and other delightful geographical goofs (opposing car windows showcasing a sunny coastline on either side…Either this is the world’s narrowest island, or maybe it was a leisurely drive down an isthmus?)

And the Jaws similarities don’t end there.

Like other nature-run-amok movies, there are entrepreneurial schemers, looking to make a quick buck, and at the expense of public safety. Here, it’s Intec, an evil corporation in cahoots with a corrupt public official, a mayor desperate to increase tax revenue on the island. His economic development plan includes allowing a biotech firm to set up shop, a start-up with an interesting business model: they’re testing a cockroach in a lab, that’ll feast on other cockroaches! What could possibly go wrong with that?

Cockroaches are inherently nasty. And perfect horror film fodder. But for creatures that can apparently go a month without feeding, you’d never know it here. In The Nest, they make short work of islanders and pets, in it has to be said, rather revolting fashion.

Exterminate! Exterminate!

And it’s up to the macho town sheriff, and his ex-paramour and high-school sweetheart (who happens to be the mayor’s daughter) to save the day.

Genre fans will get a kick out of love interest Lisa Langlois, who starred in some 80s cheeseball classics like Happy Birthday to Me and Deadly Eyes.

There’s even an evil scientist who gets aroused by the order, Blattodea (a group that includes termites, another indestructible insect).

As audacious as Slugs, this buggy horror delivers.

*** (out of 5)

[Check out our discussion of The Nest on the Really Awful Movies Podcast]