COMPANY: UFO International
RUNTIME: 88 minutes (Lake Placid 2), 96 minutes (Lake Placid 3), 86 minutes (Lake Placid: The Final Chapter)
PLOT: Large man-eating crocodiles begin to once again appear around Black Lake as two males and one aggressive female, which is protecting her nest, wreak havoc on the locals. (Lake Placid 2)
A game warden moves his family to Black Lake, once the site of deadly crocodile attacks. Locals assure him the crocodiles are gone, but his mischievous young son finds a few baby crocs and begins feeding them. They quickly grow into very big adults and start attacking the game warden's family and nearby town. (Lake Placid 3)
Black Lake has been turned into a crocodile sanctuary surrounded by an electric fence. When the fence gets left open one night, a high-school field trip bus unknowingly enters the park. It's up to Reba the poacher and the new town sheriff to save the teens from becoming crocodile chow. (Lake Placid: The Final Chapter)
REVIEW: With SyFy's recent airing of Lake Placid vs Anaconda I figured I'd try my hand at covering all the other SyFy sequels from both series' leading up to this killer animal mash-up, obviously excluding the three larger-budget theatrical entries in the series (the first Lake Placid and the first two Anaconda movies). But for those dying to know my thoughts on those ones (I know I know, all two of you), I will just say that I personally love all 3, with Lake Placid being my top favorite, followed closely by Anaconadas: Hunt for the Blood Orchid, and lastly the first Anaconda.
I already covered SyFy's Anaconda 3:Offspring and Anacondas: Trail of Blood in my previous review, and so now I'll cover all their Lake Placid sequels, which consists of Lake Placid 2, Lake Placid 3, and Lake Placid: The Final Chapter (hahaha, yeah right...). Initially I toyed with doing up separate reviews for each, but both Anaconda sequels are essentially identical to one another, and all three Lake Placid sequels are also pretty similar to one another, so I figured it would be best, and time saving, to just cover all of them in one review each.
Unlike the Anaconda sequels though, the SyFy Lake Placid sequels are actually a hell of a lot of fun, and are among my favorite of the SyFy Original Movies, to the point where I always anxiously await the next installment as soon as one is announced or even so much as rumored. Don't get me wrong, much like with the Anaconada ones, all three Lake Placid sequels are essentially interchangeable from one another and are pretty much the exact same movie done three times in a row, just with changes in main characters, but at least I enjoy them and what they do so much that I actually don't mind the repetitiveness in this case. Also like with the Anaconda sequels, I find it's almost best to not even really view these as sequels to the bigger budget theatrical Lake Placid movie but instead as an unrelated franchise that just happens to be based off the same idea. While the first and last of these sequels does mention Betty White's character and the fact that she fed and raised a couple crocodiles, there's not only no other mention of anything from the original movie, but the events themselves of that movie have been totally forgotten about by the town's residents and have been regulated to being nothing more than mere urban legend (how that could happen in such a short time period makes no sense to me) and even the couple lines mentioned about Betty White's character in the second movie by that character’s sister (played by Cloris Leachman, who has moved into her sister's house on the lake and essentially taken over her role) could be looked at more as just filler background info on Cloris Leachman's character as opposed to references to a previous movie.
Joining Cloris Leachman in Lake Placid 2 is Smallville and Dukes of Hazard star John Schneider as the new town Sheriff trying to stop the growing crocodile infestation, and teaming up with Sam McMurray (Chandler's boss on Friends), who plays a hilarious self-cantered and over-confidant big game hunter, although putting on an annoying and laughably bad fake accent that seems to come and go depending on the scene. All three of these actors make the movie a blast to watch, as you can tell they're just having fun while making this, and they all interact with one another, and the other characters of the movie, so well and usually with great comedic effect. Taking over from them in the third Lake Placid is Colin Ferguson playing a relative of Betty White and Cloris Leachman's characters, arriving in town with his wife and young son to clean out the house previously occupied by both older ladies, and to get it on the market to sell. Admittedly he's kind of generic and nothing to write home about, but luckily alongside him in the movie is the far-more entertaining Michael Ironside as the new Sheriff, though no mention was made as to what happened to John Schneider’s character between movies. Also sharing screentime with them is Yancy Butler as a poacher-for-hire that gets caught up in everything going on and ends up also being the only character to continue on to a future installment, returning in Lake Placid 4: The Final Chapter and easily being the best part about both sequels, as everything that comes from her mouth turns into pure laugh-out-loud comedic gold. The cute-as-hell Elisabeth Rohm and horror movie legend Robert Englund both partake in the fun alongside Yancy Butler in The Final Chapter, with Rohm playing yet another new Sheriff and Englund an antagonistic big game poacher. Suffice to say these movies are loaded with tons of familiar B-Movie faces and, excluding a few side characters (especially in Part 3), the acting across all of these sequels is actually pretty good for the most part.
The effects for the crocodiles are kind of hit or miss. In some scenes they actually look pretty damn good but in others they are really rather terrible, and the same goes for how they interact with the actors and surrounding environments, with some shots being pretty decent and others eye-rollingly abysmal. The CG models and designs for them though are pretty decent and remain consistent across all three movies, which is both a good and bad thing. By using the same design, it removes any hope for CGI improvements from movie to movie (though I think they were slightly better in The Final Chapter. Either that or I was just used to them by then), however it does keep everything in visual continuity across all the movies, and seeing as how I rather enjoyed the designs of these crocs for the most part, I'm pretty much A-ok with them not changing throughout the series. The one thing Lake Placid 2 did however, that the other two sequels abandoned, was the use of a practical crocodile model for a few shots, as opposed to just questionable CGI. Each movie offers it's own unique twist though for the crocodiles that the others don't do, so I just look at that as the second movie's twist. Likewise, Lake Placid 3 had a rather fun scene of the crocodiles wandering into town during a nightly rainstorm and attacking a grocery store, and The Final Chapter included some scenes of a swarm of baby crocodiles getting in on the killing action, so it was quite fun seeing what each movie would do unique to just that one, that the others didn't when it came to the croc action.
Actually, while the plots for each movie are essentially some variation on the same idea, each one did a rather commendable job with keeping things feeling fresh by not only doing new things with the crocodiles and their killing scenes in each movie, but also with the set pieces that these scenes took place in and around. Sure, it's all the same lake, but each movie made sure to include some new location around the lake for some awesome action scenes to take place. Both the second and third include scenes that take place at night and in rainstorms (something I absolutely LOVE in killer animal/monster B-Movies and I feel doesn't get utilized enough these days), but the third also had scenes take place, as mentioned above, within the town itself with the climax dealing with the crocodiles hunting our main leads throughout a large grocery store after-hours. By the time the fourth movie rolls around the filmmakers know they have to really do something new and unique to keep it all fresh and so they include a subplot dealing with a large electrified fence going up around the lake to keep the crocs in and people out, which reminded me of Jurassic Park on more than one occasion throughout. Of course they had to then come up with a way to get our cast of characters on the other side of said fence, and I do feel that how they went about that was terribly stupid and makes no sense whatsoever, but meh, minor quibble in what is otherwise my favourite entry of the series.
For fans of killer animal B-Movies or just SyFy Original Movies in general, the Lake Placid sequels are great fun. The third is probably the weakest overall to me, awesome grocery store scene and Yancy Butler aside, but it's still entertaining enough if you can get past the uneven hit or miss crocodile effects that plague all three entries. The Final Chapter is easily the strongest in my opinion though, with the inclusion of the electrified fence around the lake, the best acting of all three movies, and to be frank, just all around the most fun to watch.
Don't get me wrong though, the second movie is still great fun as well, and all three together make for one hell of a triple-feature some random rainy weekend afternoon. Just make sure you don't make it a family affair like I know some fans do with SyFy Originals, as there is plenty of gore, nudity, and F-Bombs throughout these movies, making them certainly not fit for the really young crowd.
8/10 Rooms in the Psych Ward (Lake Placid 2)
6/10 Rooms in the Psych Ward (Lake Placid 3)
10/10 Rooms in the Psych Ward (Lake Placid: The Final Chapter)