There’s no denying that CGI has revolutionized the giant monster movie, and it has some prime examples of the kind of horror it’s capable of producing on the big screen. Cloverfield comes to mind as not only one of the best big monster movies in recent times but also one of the scariest. The monster’s design, the set pieces, and the mystery behind the creature’s presence all converge to produce a very unsettling experience unlike anything seen before in the genre.
And yet, for my money, nothing beats Jurassic Park’s T-Rex animatronic as the most impressive giant movie monster in film history. There’s just something special about knowing the creature that’s trying to eat the movie’s characters is actually there, especially during the first encounter when it slaughters the goat and breaks out of its paddock. That the actors aren’t just reacting to a guy in a green suit holding a dinosaur prop head as a marker for the subsequent CGI work gives the sequence a uniquely horrifying feel that heightens the tension in unprecedented ways (even though CGI was used in some scenes to for the T-Rex).
The new big budget Thai/Chinese production The Lake is aiming for the same thing that made Jurassic Park so impactful, bringing the practical effects monster back into the fold with a giant creature designed by Jordu Schell, the artist behind the Cloverfield Monster, Starship Troopers, The Thing, Men in Black, Planet of the Apes, and Predators.
The film looks to tap more into horror than fantasy for its giant monster story. The teaser trailer keeps things pretty light on details, preferring to offer a generous set of hints as to the threat the human characters will be facing instead of the reasons why there’s a monster attacking people in the first place. It’s highly effective at hyping up the threat, though. The glimpses we get of the monster suggest its design will feature classic giant creature elements along with key tweaks the trailer doesn’t entirely give away.
There are also instances in which the possibility of smaller creatures are hinted at, but not definitively. This is, after all, a teaser and its purpose is to foster an air of mystery that surrounds the creature’s origins. The shots of the monster do look impressive and showcase the prowess of practical effects in storytelling. There’s an overwhelming sense of presence to the creature and it helps make it look supremely dangerous and deadly.
Schell’s monster design, what’s shown of it, is downright disturbing. It compares to his design for Cloverfield by favoring horror over sci-fi on a visual level. Regardless of what its origin ends up being, one thing’s already certain: the creature will leave an impression. The production looks ambitious and the settings varied enough to guarantee the action won’t just focus on big cities or densely populated areas. In this regard, The Lake somewhat reminds of Bong Joon-Ho’s 2006 The Host, another monster movie that aimed for being different within the genre. It explored other environments and spaces to great effect, preferring to keep some distance from the all-too-common skyscraper-dominated areas that populate these type of movies. That’s on top of having a unique creature that still invites close observation to fully appreciate.
The Lake is slated for an August, 2022 release in Thailand. There’s no information yet on when it’ll reach our shores and whether it’ll go for an initial theatrical run or if it’s headed straight for a Video on Demand release. Whatever the case may be, this new giant creature feature deserves attention for bringing practical effects back to the table and hopefully introducing the form to a new generation of movie-goers.