Written by Ally McBeal's David Kelly, this has a lot of that series' very sparky, sassy comedy dialogue. Bridget Fonda's paleontologist is foisted off into the wilds of Maine after an animal attack leaves behind what looks like a fossil, and she makes no secret of her utter lack of adaptability to the woods. Her character is great fun to watch, and holds the movie together in one of her best performances, with some truly standout lines: "If you call me Ma'am one more time, I'll sue you - and with today's laws it's possible!"
Bill Pullman is the laid back game warden tolerating her bad attitude as he tries to find out what killed a man in the lake, and Brendan Gleeson is terrifically resigned as the Sheriff having to babysit them all. It's a cast sent from heaven, as all of them seem utterly at home spouting Kelly's fast, snappy, barbed one-liners. And then Oliver Platt arrives as a slightly demented and appallingly opinionated adventurer, and the comedy begins to increase at about the same rate as the horror does. Seasoned director Steve Miner doesn't forget the horror, and builds the suspense masterfully, with several startlingly violent and fast attack scenes that really highlight the danger they're all in, as well as a terrific 'trapped in the water' tension piece. The woods feel truly wild, there are some ingenious moments and interesting mythology, and Miner even gives comedy foil Platt a moment that is arguably the most chilling and threatening suspense scene in the film. It's a film of tremendous skill from all involved. Not designed to be taken seriously (except where it clearly hints: 'this is a serious bit' with a deft change in tone), it's sophisticated sharp-edged comedy, with fast paced action and masterful horror-tension and gore.
Filled with a warmth of spirit charm and adventure lacking in the majority of films, let alone the majority of horrors, this is an unmissable treat.