The Lake Placid Trilogy
Lake Placid (November 2/10)
A passable yet unspectacular horror effort, Lake Placid follows several characters - including Bill Pullman's Jack Wells, Bridget Fonda's Kelly Scott, and Oliver Platt's Hector Cyr - as they converge on the title locale after a man is eaten alive by an oversized crocodile. Director Steve Miner has infused Lake Placid with a surprisingly low-key vibe that's reflected in David E. Kelley's expectedly talk-centric screenplay, with the uniformly likeable performances generally ensuring that the uneventful atmosphere isn't quite as problematic as one might've feared. There's little doubt, however, that Kelley's reliance on snarky, overly snappy instances of dialogue ultimately perpetuates the film's pervasively lightweight feel, as the screenwriter's sitcom-like sensibilities diminish the strength of the film's few horror and suspense-related moments (although, to be fair, there is admittedly one tense interlude in which Platt's character faces off against the killer croc). The end result is a watchable piece of work that benefits substantially from the charisma of its stars, although this is undoubtedly one of those movies that begins to evaporate from one's memory minutes after it ends.
Lake Placid 2 (November 2/10)
As typically second-rate as one might've anticipated, Lake Placid 2 once again follows an assortment of characters - John Schneider's James Riley, Sam McMurray's Jack Struthers, and Cloris Leachman's Sadie Bickerman, among others - as they're forced to battle a bloodthirsty crocodile after it chomps down on a hapless bystander. It's worth noting that Lake Placid 2, unlike the majority of its direct-to-video brethren, actually presents itself as a bona fide sequel to its (admittedly superior) predecessor, with Leachman's scene-stealing turn as the foul-mouthed sister to Betty White's Lake Placid character the most obvious indicator of this. Unfortunately, the movie also resembles the first film in terms of its reliance on relentless chatter - as scripters Todd Hurvitz and Howie Miller place an all-too-consistent emphasis on dialogue when they should be stressing croc-chomping action. It doesn't help that virtually all of Lake Placid 2's characters come off as one-dimensional stereotypes, which inevitably perpetuates the film's decidedly low-rent feel and cements its place as a rather superfluous piece of work (with the laughable special effects undoubtedly confirming this vibe). And although one could certainly do worse as far as DTV followups go, Lake Placid 2 is sure to leave most fans of the original cold and seems destined to appeal solely to grizzled horror viewers with lowered expectations.
Lake Placid 3 (November 10/10)
Set a year after the events of its immediate predecessor, Lake Placid 3 follows an assortment of bland characters as they inevitably find themselves terrorized by the franchise's man-eating crocodiles - with the situation exacerbated by a small-town sheriff (Michael Ironside's Tony Willinger) who refuses to call in additional help. Lake Placid 3 has been infused with an almost unconscionably deliberate pace that ultimately seals its doom, as director G.E. Furst, working from David Reed's screenplay, spends far too much time establishing the film's myriad of characters and their relationships with one another (ie in addition to a family of three, several campers, and the aforementioned sheriff, the narrative also boasts a grizzled hunter-for-hire and her hapless charges). There's subsequently never a point wherein Lake Placid 3 - which is, by the standards of the genre, relatively well made - is able to wholeheartedly capture the viewer's interest, with the lamentable lack of gore undoubtedly compounding the film's progressively tedious atmosphere (ie the only thing one asks out of an endeavor such as this are copious scenes of folks getting ripped limb from limb by vicious crocs). Furst's reliance on shaky camerawork during the movie's sparse action sequences is regrettable, certainly, and it's finally impossible to label Lake Placid 3 as anything more than just another needless direct-to-video horror sequel.