OCTOBER 21, 2010
All I asked was that Lake Placid 3 was an improvement on the previous film, and I got my wish! The FX are still mind-blowingly bad (can’t they at least build a puppet head for close-ups?), but the script is much improved, the acting quality is higher, and they finally go outside of the lake/woods for a few extended set-pieces. I’ll probably never watch it again, but I was at least mildly entertained this time around, and it's a more worthy followup to the original.
As I said, the script is better. We still have a group of croc-bait teens running around, but there are also a handful of reasonably well-written adult characters, including the great Michael Ironside as the local sheriff (who is so low-respected that local boys actually play pranks on him), and Yancy Butler as a “cougar” (come on, way to make her AND me feel old! She’s barely 40!) who’s got a knack for small weapons. Plus the hero (Eureka’s Colin Ferguson) brings a low-key charm to the proceedings; he reminded me of Mike Denton from Undead or Alive. Also: no foul-mouthed old ladies this time. Ferguson plays the nephew of Betty White's character (or Cloris Leachman's, I’m not sure), who has died due to a mild case of can't-afford-the-actress-esia.
It’s also got a few good kills, not to mention a bit of a mean-streak. Our main teen girl is torn between two guys, both of whom seem like pretty decent fellas. But the crocs make her choose the unknown option C, because they both get eaten. And that sort of casual attitude toward killing folks makes it a bit more exciting – Ferguson and his family are obviously safe, but the large number of supporting characters are fair game, but also not “guaranteed” kills – I wasn’t sure if Ironside or Butler would survive their various attacks, making these scenes a bit more suspenseful than you usually get in this type of thing (plus, they’re the most famous actors in the movie, so they bring along some added goodwill – he’s more than a Sheriff, he’s the gung-ho awesome captain from Starship Troopers!). I also LOVED the opening bit, with a girl riding on a guy who has his feet in the water, with a croc pulling him back just to the right “spot” under the girl – I think I’ll make a compilation of all the great “A guy gets killed mid-coitus but his girlfriend doesn't notice” scenes in horror movies – Hatchet 2, Night of the Demons, Lake Placid 3...
And the crocs finally go a bit far from the lake! We get a pretty extended attack on the house that our heroes live in, which allows for some unique tools to fight them with (a chainsaw!). And the climax takes place in the small town, with the remaining crocs (there are like 4 or 5 in the movie) swarming on a grocery store and a gas station. The latter part has one of my favorite bits in a movie in a while too – the hero decides to immolate the croc, so he puts in his credit card to turn the pump on. Now, I’m already happy because usually in movies, pumps just work right off the bat, so I appreciated the small attention to detail. But then they throw a small wrench in the works – the guy forgets their zip code and has to ask his wife! It’s a small, natural moment – the sort of thing I have long given up expecting or hoping to see in low-budget Syfy originals.
But god, the CGI is just horrendous. I can forgive some blemishes or a bad shot here and there, but literally EVERY shot looks bad. Some of the kills aren’t even physically possible as depicted (the hunter being decapitated from behind, for example), and the sometimes amusing/creative designs are constantly being ruined by the execution. Part of what makes the opening kill work is that they use what they have (Bulgarian actresses willing to go full frontal; a sense of humor) to distract you from noticing that you never really see the crocs that pull the guy away. You’d think after what, 15 years of making CGI monsters for low budget productions that they could finally figure out how to get it right, or at least improve, but I swear this stuff is getting worse.
Speaking of the nudity, I feel sort of bad for the folks who watched this on Syfy, as it obviously wasn’t there, but they had to endure countless ads for Caprica or whatever and a bunch of local spots instead. Having such a surprise “display” early on in the movie kind of put me in a good (or at least, less discerning) mood, which is why I was probably able to find the movie kind of fun. It’s the rare case of the UNRATED thing actually providing a benefit to the movie (that said, it does run a bit long – they could have trimmed some of the fat in the first act).
Even though 2 had a bunch of extras (yeah, THANKS), Lake Placid 3 is as bare-bones as they come, without even a trailer to quench our thirst. I assume they had a “clean” version of the opening for TV, why not throw that on there so we could further appreciate the unrated-ness of the feature? Or maybe a “Fun With American Accents” (the kid is particularly bad) featurette? Give us something here!
What say you?