"We'll Fix it in Post!":
From producers UFO International and the Sci-Fi Channel comes a real big croc. The supposed sequel to 1999's weak Lake Placid, Lake Placid 2 is a medium budget, made-for-TV monster movie about huge crocodiles terrorizing small town white people. This DVD is an unrated version, containing more graphic content than they could have shown when it originally aired on standard cable in 2007. Extra footge or not, the movie still isn't worth the effort of pressing play.
It takes place in the town of Aroostook, Maine, at a lake that isn't even supposed to be Lake Placid, New York. The first movie featured 30 foot crocodiles that lived in the lake and grew off of whole cows fed to them by a crazy old woman. The sequel features an entirely new cast, and this time there are even more giant crocs than before. The opening scene is the token ambiguous killing, in which one person sees another killed by an unseen monster, underwater (as if, when we watch these movies, we don't already know what sort of monster it'll be). Sheriff James Riley (John "Bo Duke before Sean Scott" Schneider) then becomes involved, trying to solve the mystery of what has killed five people in the last two months at the lake. A fish and wildlife agent, Emma (Sarah LaFleur), joins him, and they just happen to have had some romantic history, and she just happens to be attractive. Meanwhile, James' estranged son, Scott (Chad Collins), is in town for the summer and goes camping on the lake with some friends, unaware that they are all in danger. James eventually traces the mystery to Sadie (Cloris Leachman), the sister of Deloris, the crazy old woman in the first film. Sadie is feeding the crocs mutated beef, and James realizes he has to kill the crocs outright, that they're too much of a threat to be dealt with in any other way. A lot of people get eaten.
Lake Placid 2, obviously, follows the conventions of its genre, the monster movie. But let me mention that this is not scary, at all. Bright, green forests and calm, serene ponds are not menacing or scary environments. There is only one scene that even takes place at night, but it doesn't use the darkness as a threat. Leachman is unconvincing as the creepy Sadie, and all of her stupid puns make her sound more senile than sadistic. But there is a bigger problem when it comes to this movie's lack of scariness.
The computer generated crocs are completely unconvincing. Typical of any Sci-Fi Pictures original programming, the CG is simply substandard; it draws attention to itself and distracts from the narrative. The animation is jerky, but mostly the textures and the lighting on the skin of the creatures fail to blend into the environments, so the monsters look like cartoons in a live action setting. The lack of effects skill and budget are also apparent in some of the weird editing. There are little pieces of action missing where the blending of live action actors and CG crocs would have been extra tough. For example, when a man is snatched off a dock by one of the predators, we see only his legs going under the water in a splash, instead of the moment where he's actually bitten. When a law enforcement officer has gotten too close to one of the crocs, we miss the actual shot where the croc picks him up in its mouth; the filmmakers cut around this stuff poorly, so I believe the issue was the special effects realities. (The crocs are in plain view at this point, so they are not kept off camera for suspense. Also, the gore in the movie is plentiful, so it wasn't to sensor the violence.)
There is absolutely no suspense in Lake Placid 2. By halfway through the film, when you can see that absolutely everyone, no matter how competent, besides the very main characters are going to be eaten, you don't worry anymore. The crocs never miss a bite when they lunge for prey, except when they're aiming for the few core stars.
As far as I can tell, the unrated sections simply mean that the film now contains nudity. There are some actresses who are there only as eye candy, and they can't act. Of course, no one else can, either, especially with the horrible dialogue. A large part of this film is meant to be comedic, but the jackass characters aren't funny or likable. Their lines are painfully bad, and you'll feel as though you're watching a failed attempt to stick American Pie into a monster movie. Some of Scott's buddies are supposed to be hilarious, but you'll find yourself begging God for them to be eaten immediately, not because their characters are jerks, but because their performances are so painful to watch.
Lake Placid 2 was shot in 1.85:1 widescreen, which makes it great for 16x9 TV's. The movie itself is enhanced perfectly, though a lot of the other content, like trailers and special features, are not. Since it's 1.85:1, you'll still see just the slightest bit of letterboxing on the top and bottom of any 16x9 TV, but you'll barely notice unless you look. (And, you can just turn on the cropping if it bothers you.) The image looks great, even if what it's showing doesn't. The colors are pretty vibrant, and the black levels are nice and deep. There are no artifacts to speak of, and the lush greens of the forests surrounding the lake look great upscaled. The crocodiles? Not so much.
The audio consists of 5.1-surround in English. It's actually pretty good. This isn't the type of movie you should use to impress you friends with your sound system, but it does have good programming for the occasional loud effects. The back channels are used for a lot of ambient sound and some effects when the action is off screen. The mix is fine and the dialogue is clear. There are no alternatives for audio, nor a commentary track, but there are subtitles in English, Spanish, and French.
There are three special features on Lake Placid 2: Unrated:
The first one is a video montage entitled "Sex, Guns, and Croc-n-Roll." No, I'm not making that name up. It's presentation switches between 4x3 and 16x9, and it isn't enhanced for widescreen TV's. It's about four minutes long and just shows some of the film's more notable parts (killings and strippings), as well as some behind-the-scenes footage to give the viewer an idea of how they did the special effects.
The second special feature is called "Surviving a Crocodile Attack." It is presented in 4x3, and it consists of text telling you real life tips for surviving encounters with real crocodiles. This is played up for comedy, as the tips are intercut with movie clips of people dying. It's about four minutes long. Don't bother with this one.
The last special feature was a real bargain for the filmmakers because it required no planning or effort whatsoever. It's called "Lake Placid 2: The 'Gnawed Up' Version." It consists of the movie in fast motion complete with the squeally sound effects associated with fast forwarding. The movie and sound only come back to normal speed during scenes of action (violence or nudity), so this compresses the movie's length to nine minutes. This isn't a funny idea, like it's supposed to be, but it is the preferable way to watch Lake Placid 2.
Every time I hear that these movies are called "Lake Placid," I keep hoping they have something to do with the 1980 hockey Miracle on Ice. But when I press play, they always end up being average monster movies about some other lake in Maine with killer, giant crocodiles. The weak special effects and horrible writing make this barely worth a rental, if that. This movie would function relatively well as comedic schlock, if only it was actually fun to watch. I'm going to have to say, "Skip It."