Home > Reviews > LAKE PLACID – John Ottman

LAKE PLACID – John Ottman

lakeplacidOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

In recent years, Hollywood has regurgitated the “mutant killer something-or-other” storyline for an alarmingly large number of films: cockroaches in Mimic, lizards in Godzilla, crustaceans in Deep Rising, sharks in Deep Blue Sea, the list goes on. Crocodiles are the newest addition, with the arrival of Steve Miner’s Lake Placid, a new horror thriller set in the very same mountain town that staged the Winter Olympics back in 1980.

With an unexpectedly excellent cast including Bill Pullman, Bridget Fonda, Oliver Platt and Brendan “Braveheart” Gleeson, Lake Placid is unfortunately a rather limp and tepid entry into the vicious animals sub-genre, and ends up unintentionally lampooning itself with trite dialogue and somewhat stilted performances from all concerned. Someone turns up, gets eaten, someone else turns up, gets eaten, someone else… you get the picture. Pullman and Fonda, having been afforded above-the-title credits, save the day. It is a little surprising also to find composer John Ottman attached to such a sub-standard project, especially given that, at the time of its writing, he was up to his eyeballs in pre-production for the new movie Urban Legend 2, which he is actually directing. It is not inconceivable to imagine that these distractions were brought fully to bear upon his score for Lake Placid, which is the by far the least impressive of his career to date.

The ‘Main Title’ is pretty good, playing like an off-kilter version of his theme from Incognito, with precise string rhythms punctuated by brass calls, rolling timpanis, crashing cymbals, harp waves and (as Ottman himself puts it) “a few weird synth textures” dominating. Unfortunately, there is very little thematic development and very few real recapitulations, leaving the rest of the score dominated mainly by action and suspense. The action cues are more loud than they are exciting, employing simple and familiar devices (dissonant brass stabs, pizzicato strings, woodwind flutters over a driving synth beat) in a valiant effort to beef up the tension. Cues such as ‘Close Call’, ‘Reluctant Passengers’ ‘Morgue/Scary Beaver’, ‘Here He Comes’ and others embrace this style, but are far less accomplished than any of the action moments from his other scores, and pale by comparison.

At the other end of the scale, ‘Udder Preparations’ is an amusingly staccato piece for orchestra and piccolo, and ‘Scouting’ very briefly re-states the main theme, while ‘Love Games’ and ‘Making A Move/Jack’ are a couple of romantic themes for acoustic guitar and strings. However, these moments of brief respite are quickly swallowed up by the never ending tension and suspense of the cues which surround it. The main problem lies with the fact that, for much of the score, you get the pervading feeling that it was rushed. It’s almost as though Ottman simply added a few innovative touches to some fairly unremarkable pieces of music, messed around with a motif or two in an attempt to generate a bit of interest, and then quickly moved on to the next one so that he could get it all over and done with. Of course, when you have a film as uninspiring as Lake Placid to work with, you can’t expect miracles, but such has been the quality of Ottman’s work to date that almost take it for granted that he will come up with something spectacular every time he puts pen to paper.

Although I’m sure Lake Placid works well in the film, and while I’m sure John Ottman tried everything he could to make the movie more palatable and more frightening, in the end there is very little music of note on this CD. No Ottman score is ever going to be truly unworthy, and certainly Lake Placid is at times entertaining in an undemanding sort of way. But I feel that a large percentage of listeners to this score will find Ottman’s unending adherence to familiar clichés just a little disappointing.

Rating: **

Track Listing:

  • Main Title (2:27)
  • Hector’s Here (1:10)
  • Close Call (4:00)
  • Udder Preparations (4:02)
  • Love Games (2:24)
  • Reluctant Passengers (1:47)
  • Morgue/Scary Beaver (4:11)
  • Scouting (2:23)
  • Here He Comes! (4:56)
  • Making A Move/Jack (2:11)
  • Swimming With Croc (3:36)
  • Hectors Mind (2:47)
  • Weird Things/Dinner Time (2:51)
  • Ground Rules (1:44)
  • Trapping Croc/Resolution (5:29)
  • The Lake/Hitching A Ride (1:05)

Running Time: 47 minutes 10 seconds

Varèse Sarabande VSD-6055 (1999)

Music composed by John Ottman. Conducted by Damon Intrabartolo. Orchestrations by John Ottman and Damon Intrabartolo. Recorded and mixed by Tim Boyle. Edited by Amanda Goodpaster. Mastered by Erick Labson. Album produced by John Ottman and Laura Engel.

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