Blu-Ray Review- Lake Placid
Distributor: Scream Factory
Street Date: July 8th 2014
Technical Specifications: 1080P, Color, 2.35:1 Aspect Ratio, 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
Runtime: 82 Minutes
The creature feature subgenre of Horror has always fascinated and terrified me, specifically, the aquatic monsters featured in movies like Creature from the Black Lagoon, Jaws, Piranha, and many more. The thought of being attacked from beneath, unable to scream, run, or even hear your attacker coming, gives me nightmares. I feel safe and secure swimming at the lake that surrounds my family cabin, but to this day, I’m more than a little edgy going into the ocean. In 1999, television writer David E. Kelly and Director Steve Miner teamed up to release Lake Placid, which works as both a modern day take on creature feature concept and a witty homage to B-movie cinema.
In the film, Paleontologist Kelly Scott (Bridget Fonda) is reluctantly sent to Black Lake, Maine to assist in the investigation of a Fish and Game officer who was bitten in half by an unseen creature from beneath the water. Once there, she joins local Sheriff Hank Keough (Brendan Gleeson) and Fish and Game Officer Jack Wells (Bill Pullman). They’re an odd crew to say the least, and tempers flare even more when egotistical Professor of Mythology Hector Cyr (Oliver Platt) joins the search for the mysterious creature.
After a series of lethal encounters, including an overturned canoe, a severed toe, and the decapitation death of one of their crew, the team discovers that the creature they’re dealing with is a prehistoric 30-foot crocodile. And as it turns out, foul-mouthed lake resident Delores Bickerman (Betty White) knows more than she initially let on about this killer croc’s origins and feeding habits. As the bodies pile up, the team has to find a way to capture or kill this ancient behemoth to assure that the local community can be safe once more.
As always, I hesitate to say too much more about the plot of Lake Placid and let you enjoy this fun film for yourselves. Believe it or not, the main draw of the film (and repeat watch factor) is the witty and creative dialogue from screenwriter David E. Kelly. The dialogue is consistently fresh and playful, and the humor is very dark and fitting. Lake Placid plays more like a tribute or homage to the B-movie creature features of yesteryear than a straight horror film, but offers plenty of unique kills and bloodshed for those that require it. The characters are extremely well written, and in turn, creatively played by the cast involved, which is something unique for a film of this genre. I really enjoyed revisiting Lake Placid after all these years, and it’s the perfect summer entertainment for horror fans.
Fans of Lake Placid can rest assured that the film looks great in High Definition. Some of Scream Factory’s abundant admirers seemed worried that this transfer might be plagued with some of the picture quality issues that their most recent license from Fox (Ravenous) displayed. There is no reason for concern here, and point of fact, this is a strong video presentation. Film grain looks natural and authentic, and textures and fine object detail in clothing, crocodile scales, and the surrounding woods of the lake is very clear. Colors are also accurately reproduced here, with the golden-hued and forest green color scheme really coming to life. There are no signs of digital noise reduction, and the print is relatively free of artifacts or scratches, making for a fantastic video presentation.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track featured here represents the film well on Blu-Ray. Dialogue, music, and sound effects are all equally balanced across your home entertainment system in a surprisingly dynamic presentation. From the larger scale action scenes (crocodile chomps, boat motors, helicopter blades) to the films quieter moments (birds chirping, crickets on the lake), this audio presentation is respectful to the source and enhances this fun B-movie for home viewing.
Scream Factory has given fans of Lake Placid the deluxe treatment on this brand new Blu-Ray edition. Here’s a breakdown of what’s included:
- The Making of Lake Placid– This brand new HD documentary runs over thirty minutes and features interviews with the likes of Actor Bill Pullman, Director Steve Miner, Editor Marshall Harvey, Cinematographer Daryn Okada, and many more. The cast and crew discuss David Kelly’s witty script, the blend of animatronics and CGI used to bring the crocodile to life, the enormous water tank used in production, Betty White’s time on the set, and other fun details from filming. I especially enjoyed the story that Nick Marra (effects supervisor) told about the grizzly bear being scared of the animatronic crocodile. This is another standout job from Scream Factory and crew.
- Theatrical Trailer- The original theatrical trailer is presented in standard definition and runs just under two minutes. This is a classic 90’s preview, with the “smoky” tone voiceover and recycled climactic music from Aliens, and offered theatrical audiences a good taste of the humor and mayhem from the film.
- Featurette- This featurette includes what appears to be carried over interview footage from the previous Fox DVD release that has been edited together with film footage from the new high definition transfer. It runs a little over five minutes, and is presented in standard definition.
- TV Spots- Roughly a minute and a half of television promos for Lake Placid that ran during the original theatrical campaign for the film. Like the aforementioned trailer, these little clips help establish the fun and campy nature of the film.
- Croc Test Footage- This is over seven minutes of camcorder footage (no audio) from the filming during the summer of 1998. Just a few test shots from the animatronic designers to make sure the mouth, nostrils, and eyes were working on the crocodile.
- Behind the Scenes Gallery- Over five minutes of fun behind-the-scenes photos and production stills from the making of the film. I especially enjoyed seeing the various camera rigs and mechanical elements used to make the crocodile come to life.
As you can see from the “Unboxing” pictures below, this Blu-Ray release from Scream Factory includes newly commissioned artwork from artist Robert O’Brien. I love the postcard style utilized here, and really appreciate the minimalist approach that really evokes terror. It’s clean, simple, and uncluttered. On the reverse of the slipcover you’ll find a plot synopsis, production stills, a list of special features, and the technical specifications for this release. On the inside of the packaging, you’ll find the Blu-Ray disc with some nice artwork, and a reversible slip-sheet featuring the original theatrical poster design for the film. Very well done!
If you’re like me, and “creature feature” horror is your thing, you’ll get a kick out of Lake Placid. This self-aware B movie homage is well written, funny, and offers up more than a few “light” scares. It’s a shame that most of the subgenre films today are relegated to television films, because Lake Placid demonstrates how you can make a fun, campy, big-budget creature feature that is a hit with audiences and (most) critics alike. The Blu-Ray edition from Scream Factory features an outstanding video presentation with authentic film grain and natural colors, and an audio presentation with a surprisingly dynamic range. Special Features are top notch as well here, especially the brand new documentary made for this release. All in all, this might just be my favorite release from Scream Factory’s “Summer of Fear” thus far. Lake Placid comes Highly Recommended.
Blu-Ray Review- Joy Ride 3: Road Kill
Distributor: 20th Century Fox
Street Date: June 17th 2014
Technical Specifications: 1080P, Color, 1.78:1 Aspect Ratio, 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
Runtime: 96 Minutes
I actually enjoyed the first Joy Ride film when it was released. Sure, it was a knockoff of Duel, but the script from J.J. Abrams was fresh and fun, the performances were earnest for the genre, and the thrills were genuine. The direct-to-video sequel served as nothing more than shot-on-the-cheap cash-in entertainment, and unfortunately, Joy Ride 3: Road Kill is more of the same.
In the opening moments of the film, a crack-addicted couple devises a plan to rob a random trucker of their imagined “stash” by having the female invite them over via CB radio. When the trucker shows up, of course, it’s none other than Rusty Nail. In one of the few thrilling sequences in the film, Rusty chains the couple to the hood of his semi, informing them that all they have to do is survive one mile of his driving, and not only will he let them go, but he’ll reward them with some of his “stash.” It’s a shame that this intense scene ends so unbelievably that viewers will be left shaking their head.
The story picks up with a group of young street-racers and their girlfriends embarking on a cross-country road trip to the Road Rally 1000. On their way they encounter Rusty Nail and his sinister semi, challenging him to some high-speed hijinks, not knowing whom they’re dealing with. As is typical with the genre, our maniac trucker hunts the crew down, providing for plenty of gore and mayhem. The main bulk of the plot centers on the lead getting his kidnapped girlfriend back from the clutches of Rusty Nail.
I will fully admit that die-hard fans of the series will enjoy this film’s genuine practical gore effects, cheesy one-liners from Rusty Nail, and well choreographed “kill” scenes. Between a semi-fan dicing up a face, chains squeezing someone to death, and multiple vehicular related accidents, there is plenty to cringe at. But this just isn’t my type of Horror film at the end of the day. The script is severely lacking, and even though the genre doesn’t command a David Mamet type treatment for the film, the dialogue could have used some polishing. Ken Kirzinger does a fine job playing the villain here, and we get to see more of the character than we did in previous outings. Though Joy Ride 3 will likely please the fan-base, for me, it seemed repetitive and unoriginal in its execution.
Though I wasn’t very enthusiastic about the film itself, there is no denying that 20th Century Fox has provided a stellar transfer of Joy Ride 3. Black levels are deep and inky, the golden-hued color scheme remains intact and consistent, and fine object detail is near perfect, providing for a great visual experience in High Definition.
The engineers at 20th Century Fox have provided a fantastic 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio track for Joy Ride 3. The car chases, stunts, engine growls, blood splatter, and dialogue all come through with pristine clarity on this HD track. If you’re a fan of the series, you won’t be disappointed here, as this disc will give your channels a workout.
20th Century Fox has given fans of the Joy Ride series some fun bonus features for this Blu-Ray release! Here’s a breakdown of what’s included:
- Riding Shotgun with Declan: Director’s Die-aries– Running over nine minutes, this featurette comes in four parts, each documenting a day in the production of Joy Ride 3. The crew clearly had a lot of fun making the film, and we get to see storyboards, makeup effects, and action sequences being setup for the film.
- Jewel’s Message- Running just over a minute, this is Jewel’s videotaped message from the film. I’m baffled as to why it is presented as a special feature here.
- Road Rage: The Blood, Sweat and Gears of Joy Ride 3– This one runs nearly twelve minutes and details the making of the film. The Director states that he wanted to make a hybrid between the previous Joyride films and The Fast and the Furious series. I enjoyed seeing Ken Kirzinger discuss his role as Rusty Nail this time around, as well as how many fans sought him out on the set as fans of his Jason Voorhees portrayal in that franchise. There are some fun makeup effects sequences, and it’s fun to see some practical effects utilized during the production of this film.
- Deleted Scenes- Almost six minutes of deleted scenes, all presented in High Definition with final score and background music. There’s a scene at a gas station, characters changing a tire, and two police officers discussing the events. All of these scenes were indeed, better left on the cutting room floor.
- Pre-Vis Sequences- Declan O’Brien discusses a pre-visualization sequence featuring a car chase from the film, having been inspired by Robert Rodriguez’ “Film School” series. Declan purchased various toy trucks and cars to pre-visualize one of the car chases, filmed it, and we get to see it placed side-by-side with the final scenes from the film.
- Finding Large Marge- This is a nearly four minute featurette on how Director Declan O’Brien found Heather Hueging, the actress who played the throwback character of Large Marge from Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure.
- Commentary by Declan O’Brien- Director O’Brien clearly enjoys the genre, and this commentary is a relatively easy listen. He details the making of certain scenes, editing choices for the final film, and how he paid homage to various films and horror concepts.
- Sneak Peek- This section of the special features provides previews for the following titles from 20th Century Fox: Devil’s Due, Out of the Furnace, In the Name of the King 3: The Last Mission, 3 Days to Kill, Bad Ass 2: Bad Asses, The Bridge: Season 1, and Wilfred Season 3.
As you can see from the “Unboxing” pictures below, this Blu-Ray release from 20th Century Fox features Rusty Nail’s murderous semi-truck, with a smoky skull enhanced over the grill. The reverse of the packaging features a plot synopsis for the film, along with a listing of the special features, and technical specifications. On the inside of the case you’ll find the Blu-Ray and DVD discs featuring artwork similar to the cover design, a digital HD copy code, and an advertisement flyer for more Horror titles from 20th Century Fox. This particular edition is a Limited set with the “Killer Packaging” cardboard insert with alternate artwork for the film. The insert is glued onto the outside plastic wrap, so be careful when you’re opening the set if you don’t want to damage it.
Though I enjoyed the first Joy Ride film for mindless Horror entertainment, the subsequent direct-to-video sequels have been the epitome of shot-on-the-cheap cash-in cinema. Joy Ride 3: Road Kill features more of the same, though it does showcase some unique “kills” and practical gore effects. The good news is that 20th Century Fox has done a wonderful job transferring the film to Blu-Ray, with picture quality that retains the gritty golden-hued intentions of the filmmakers. The audio track is equally as impressive here, especially with the dynamic range on display during the car chase sequences. Special Features are loaded, but are mostly short, unnecessary featurettes that act as filler for the disc. This is rental material for me, only recommended for die-hard fans of the series.