HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: LAKE PLACID (1999)

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LAKE PLACID (1999)

Horror/comedy takes place at a remote lake in Maine where a diver has been chewed up by something living beneath the waters. NYC Paleontologist Kelly Scott (Bridget Fonda) is sent up to investigate and she teams up with Fish and Game officer Jack Wells (Bill Pullman) and local sheriff Hank Keough (Brendan Gleeson) to find out what hungry critter has now made Black Lake it’s hunting ground. To their horror, a massive 30 ft. crocodile has taken up residence there and now they need to find a way to stop the monster reptile.

Fun nature run amok flick is directed by Steve (Friday the 13th part 2 & 3) Miner, from a script by David E. Kelley, that mixes the horror and humor elements very well. There is some solid suspense, some really well done action sequences and enough humor mixed in, for it to be a really entertaining 82 minutes. The story is very familiar and basic and the explanation for the creature’s presence there is a bit thin. On the plus side, it’s fast paced and there is enough carnage to secure an R rating, but not too much as to scare away mainstream audiences. The healthy budget is up on screen and there are a bunch of very likable characters to frolic with Stan Winston’s animatronic crocodile…with some reasonably well-done CGI critter scenes mixed in. One with an ill-fated grizzly bear stands out as very effective and amusing. It’s a good-time popcorn thriller that never tries to be more than the big budget B-movie it is and even if it’s nothing new story-wise, Miner milks the familiar scenario for the most he can get out of it.

The cast are all solid in their roles and seem to all have a good chemistry on film. Pullman is a charming, yet gruff hero who matches up perfectly with Fonda’s cute but nerdy scientist. Gleeson is fun as the bumpkin local sheriff and Oliver Platt is equally entertaining as a very enthusiastic professor, who joins the hunt. Betty White is a delight as a local who lives on the lake and Meredith Salenger is sexy and sweet as local deputy Sharon Gare. A really good cast that all get the tone of the material and play it just straight enough, but yet with a bit of a wink at the audience, as it is all in fun.

This is a very amusing nature run amok flick that can be played along with Alligator, Grizzly and just about any other B-movie of this kind you can think of. It’s fast moving, suspenseful, has just enough carnage and just enough humor to make it an all around entertaining night on the couch. A good cast and solid direction give this familiar tale some nice bite! A moderate box office hit that has gained quite an affectionate cult following in the years since it’s initial release. It became a franchise on the SYFY channel with a number of DTV sequels.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) crocodiles!

 

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BARE BONES: BATTLE OF THE SEXES (2017)

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BATTLE OF THE SEXES (2017)

A great cast highlights this retelling of the epic “Battle of the Sexes” tennis match between Bobby Riggs and Billie Jean King in 1973 during the height of the Women’s Liberation movement. It takes us on the journey leading up to the match, with up and coming female tennis player Billie Jean King fighting for equality within the pro tennis circuit and retired champ and gambler Bobby Riggs looking for a return to glory and a big payday.

Film is written by Simon Beaufoy and directed by Little Miss Sunshine duo Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton and is perfectly cast, especially in regards to it’s leads. Stone and Carell play King and Riggs spot on with Carell really enjoying Riggs’ attempts to “put the show in chauvinism”. If the film falters a bit it’s that it’s first half leading up to the challenge is a bit drab. It focuses a lot on the married King’s affair with a female hairdresser (Andrea Riseborough) and her attempts to start her own tennis tournament with World Tennis Magazine founder, Gladys Heldman (Sarah Silverman). It is very heavy on melodrama and is a bit dreary at times. It picks up in the second half when King finally accepts Riggs’ challenge and the lead-up to the match becomes a media circus and a major event. The second half has the energy and spark, that the first half was lacking, though those early story elements are of importance to the overall tale. Even knowing how the actual event ended, it’s still a lot of fun to watch this great cast play it out and makes this film so worth seeing. Also stars Bill Pullman, Alan Cumming and Elisabeth Shue as Riggs’ wife Priscilla.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: THE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW (1988)

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THE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW (1988)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

Flick is an entertaining supernatural thriller from director Wes Craven and supposedly based on a true story. It tells the tale of anthropologist Dennis Alan (Bill Pullman) who specializes in bringing exotic medicines and rare herbal remedies back to pharmaceutical companies for use in modern medicine. He is hired by the Biocorp to go to Haiti and investigate tales of a man named Christophe (Conrad Roberts) who allegedly died, was buried, and yet, has been seen walking around alive years later. They believe it to be the work of some kind of drug used in Voodoo ceremonies and want Dennis to get it. Alan takes the assignment and along with a pretty Haitian doctor (Cathy Tyson) delves deep into the Voodoo subculture to find this ‘magical’ powder. While on his mission he attracts the attention of the cruel and powerful captain of Haiti’s secret police (Zakes Moakae) and Dennis Alan may soon wish he never come to Haiti…if he even makes it out alive.

Craven delivers Richard Maxwell and Adam Rodman’s script as more of a straightforward supernatural thriller for the most part and it is entertaining as such. He keeps us wondering if some of the supernatural elements are products of hallucinations due to the power of belief, locally made drugs and good old smoke and mirrors. It’s not till the last act that we realize there is some kind of dark magic going on here and then Craven allows his film to end with a more theatrical and somewhat over-the-top finale. This works as it keeps the film grounded for the most part than cuts loose with some Nightmare On Elm Street-like dream sequences and theatrics for it’s final confrontation. Craven’s film’s have frequently used dreams sequences all the way back to Last House On The Left and it is something Craven is good at and his visual style really comes alive in them. With the subject of Voodoo and hallucination, Craven can indulge himself and not have it get intrusive. There are a few moments that teeter on getting silly, but, for the most part it is chilling and entertaining and Craven maintains an atmosphere of foreboding as Pullman’s Alan delves deeper into a world he should leave alone. There are definitely some tense moments of both the supernatural and all too real nature and these sequences are quite effective. The make-up FX are good in portraying the bloodletting and corpses, though, the fleetingly used visual effects are a bit cheesy by today’s standards. We have a very atmospheric score by Terminator‘s Brad Fiedel and John Lindley captures Craven’s visual style and the exotic locations quite well, adding to the overall mood of exotic horror. It’s a story that gives Craven a chance to do something a little different and yet, played to his strengths. Not as engrossing as his best work but, a fun and spooky movie nonetheless.

Bill Pullman fits the roil of Dennis Alan well. He is a bit smug, but, not to the point of unlikable and of course, his experiences here humble the confident adventurer. He portrays a man who has been everywhere and seen much but, might have finally gotten in over his head. He does have a nobility and that may be the element of his personality that keeps us rooting for him even when he is cocky. Cathy Tyson makes for a good heroine, though she does become a more routine damsel in distress in the last act, and as a romantic lead is pretty and serves her role. Zakes Mokae makes a very memorable and creepy villain. He would be disturbing enough as the cruel captain of the secret police with a taste for torture but, his Dargent Peytraud is also a powerful black magic practitioner with a hobby of collecting souls. The South African actor brings a menace and brutality to the man, sometimes with just a smirk and a glare. We also have Paul Winfield and Brent Jennings as locals with a little magic of their own.

In conclusion, this may not be one of Craven’s best but, it is a fun movie and has plenty of creepy moments, as well as, some bloody ones too. Things may skirt the line between over-the-top and silly in the last act in a few spots, but, they stay on the correct side and it gives us a more theatrical finale after a  grounded build-up. The cast are all suitable with Pullman a likable hero and Mokae a very disturbing villain. A solid and entertaining enough supernatural thriller that ranks along with The People Under The Stairs and Deadly Blessing as one of Craven’s more moderate but enjoyable films.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 skulls.

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