Friends, I was working at a local movie theater when Lake Placid was originally released on July 16th of 1999. Being an employee of the theater meant that we were able to watch the preview showings the night before the film was set to debut, in an age before digital projectors and movies, the point was to make sure that the film was properly spliced and had no issues. Looking back on that time, the majority of us working at the theater would be considered cinephiles, we looked at screening a movie as part of the job. I mean, even when working the concession stand you would be asked what films were worth checking out, how could you recommend a film without having seen it?
As I have shared on various Saturday Frights podcasts, one of my favorite subgenres of horror is animal horror like with Willard, Day of the Animals, or of course Alligator. So I was quite excited to check out Lake Placid, especially after we started showing the trailer – it promised to have some gallows humor and a whole lot of giant crocodile-fueled carnage.
In the late hours of July 15th, after the very last movie had played and we did our rounds to lock up the theater for the night, it was time to grab our snacks and prepare for Lake Placid. By this time I had already been with the theater for a good number of years which meant I was allowed to have guests at the screenings, so I invited two of my best friends. The lights went down and we settled in… and were completely taken aback by how much of a comedy the movie truly was. I suppose all three of us were thinking this was going to lean much more into the horror aspects of a giant crocodile running loose, because we left a little after it was revealed that Betty White’s foul-mouthed character of Mrs. Bickerman was responsible for feeding the ‘monster’.
Now before you begin to mull over the idea to lead me blindfolded to the edge of Black Lake, I eventually warmed to the film, enjoying it for what it was intended to be. The one thing I always enjoyed though was the special effects in the film, including the impressive 30-foot animatronic crocodile that was created by the Stan Winston Studios. In fact thanks to the official YouTube channel for the Stan Winston School of Character Arts you can get a quick look at the making of the ‘monster’ of Lake Placid.