After seeing this terrifying picture, Judge Daniel MacDonald won't be going swimming for at least an hour.
You'll never know what bit you.
Lake Placid is a medium-budget horror/comedy directed by Steve Miner (Friday the 13th Part 3) and written by multiple Emmy winner David E. Kelley (Mystery, Alaska). The marginal hit starred Bill Pullman (Lost Highway), Bridget Fonda (Jackie Brown), Oliver Platt (The Ice Harvest), and Betty White (The Golden Girls).
Lake Placid 2 is a small-budget, direct-to-video sequel starring John Schneider (The Dukes of Hazzard) and Cloris Leachman (Bad Santa).
Adjust your expectations accordingly.
Facts of the Case
While investigating a death on the titular body of water, small-town Sheriff Riley (Schneider) discovers the giant crocodiles that once plagued the area may not have been wiped out after all. With the help of big game hunter Struthers (Sam McMurray, Lucky Numbers) and a former flame who wants to capture them alive (Sarah Lafleur, The Unit), Sheriff Riley fights to end the beasts' reign of terror.
Of course that's complicated by his son Scott (Chad Collins, Legion of the Dead) having gone camping on the other side of the lake, dangerously near a crocodile nest…
While it contains none of the wit or playfulness of its predecessor, Lake Placid 2 ends up being pretty entertaining for a direct-to-DVD horror film. You'll rarely be scared, but you won't be bored, either, and the leads take their roles just seriously enough. Clearly the audience for this type of material is top of mind: the mere sight of the lake leads to girls taking their shirts off, resulting in some ridiculously gratuitous nudity, along with plenty of dismemberment and requisite comeuppances.
John Schneider is still a surprisingly charismatic actor, and while his Sheriff Riley comes across effortlessly laid-back, Schneider is far from phoning it in, despite the lack of prestige in the project. His interaction with Lafleur is appealing, and somehow he pulls off groan-worthy lines without hamming it up. I wouldn't be surprised to see Schneider start showing up in small character parts a la Rutger Hauer (Blade Runner) over the next few years. Cloris Leachman basically reprises the Betty White (Golden Girls) role and serves the same purpose in hampering our heroes' efforts, and the cast is pretty good, although Ian Reed Kesler (Raw Footage) is an obvious weak link, and Sam McMurray's accent of indeterminate origin changes from scene to scene.
Unfortunately, the increasingly low cost of middling digital effects means a movie like this will turn to a sub-par CGI croc rather that what could've been a more effective practical one: most of the scare potential is squandered by characters reacting to something we know isn't there. That said, kudos to director David Flores (Boa vs. Python) for keeping early attacks implied rather than explicit.
Story-wise, this is largely a retread of the original Lake Placid, not uncommon in sequel-land. There's little mention of the events that once occurred on the lake, but the major plot points are all slight variations on the same theme. The addition of a second story involving Riley's son is a wise one, however, adding some parallel action to pad out the story in the absence of David E. Kelley's sharp dialogue and quirky characters. There's just enough happening to keep the proceedings moving briskly.
Lake Placid 2 appears to have been shot on digital video—all the easier to insert the CGI croc—and as such there's very little grain and no dirt on the image. Most of the action takes place outdoors in bright light, making for sharp, detailed picture quality. I did notice a few instances of compression artifacts but these may have more to do with the check disc we were sent for review than the final presentation. Audio is in 5.1 in name only: this is basically a stereo mix broadened out to six speakers, and there are very few surround effects to speak of. Dialogue is clean and easy to understand (instances of replaced dialogue stand out sharply, too) but the soundstage is pretty narrow for a modern release.
Also included on the disc are some decidedly tongue-in-cheek special features. First up is a short montage of behind-the-scenes clips compared to the final scenes in the film set to music, not terribly revelatory but admittedly more interesting than the vapid interviews on some big-budget releases. Next is a 4-minute piece on surviving a crocodile attack that I'm sure will prove most helpful ("Tip #3: Stay out of infested waters."). And finally, a 10-minute version of the picture that fast-forwards everything but the violence and the nudity; it's good for a laugh the first time.
If you're aware of what it is—a low-budget version of the original—and you have a soft spot in your heart for B-grade horror, you'll probably find Lake Placid 2 to be a better way to spend 85 minutes than you were expecting. It's not great by any stretch of the imagination, but you could do a lot worse in the low-budget horror world.
Not guilty, thanks to meeting low expectations.
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