Written by: Berkeley Anderson
Directed by: A.B. Stone
Starring: Corin Nemec, Yancy Butler, and Robert Englund
Reviewed by: Brett Gallman
Crocs on the dock. Snakes on the lake.
When Freddy Krueger began haunting Elm Street in 1984, fans almost immediately began to wonder what would happen if the Springwood Slasher ever crossed paths with Jason Voorhees. It was a match-up that remained breathlessly anticipated even though it took Hollywood fifteen years to finally deliver it. On the other hand, has anyone ever asked for the worlds of Lake Placid and Anaconda to collide during the past fifteen years? Hell, how many people even know these are even franchises that have limped on with direct-to-video (or SyFy) follow-ups for the past decade?
And yet, here we are: somehow, it has taken sixteen years to produce Lake Placid vs. Anaconda, a crossover that’s barely been anticipated, much less demanded—unless we consider the SyFy executives looking to draw eyeballs to their latest attempt at snark-fueled, car crash “cinema.”
To its (extremely limited) credit, it does seem to at least have what must be a miniscule fan base in mind. Rather than simply toss giant snakes and crocodiles into the ring and call it a day, the film is a direct sequel to the previous two Lake Placid films: former big game hunter Reba (Yancy Butler) returns, now the sheriff of Lake Placid, while poacher Jim Bickerman (Robert Englund) is still at large. His latest exploits have him infiltrating the town’s crocodile reserve on behalf of Wexel Pharmaceuticals. Right on cue, the crocodile they’ve sedated suddenly awakens and wreaks havoc, freeing fellow crocs and introducing Wexel’s anaconda specimens to the ecosystem in the process.
With the stage set for such an epic confrontation, the scene shifts to…a group of sorority girls bound for Lake Placid for their induction ceremony. Granted, Freddy vs. Jason is proof that the fodder doesn’t need to be the best developed (nor do you even have to take them too seriously), but this is such a disappoi—well, no, I can’t say it’s a disappointment. It’s Lake Placid vs. Anaconda and is ostensibly SyFy’s fifth round with each franchise. No reasonable person could expect anything less than a movie where a bunch of girls are asked fill out bikinis and deliver clichéd performances that could barely fit on the broad side of a barn, thus inviting audiences to hope they become crocodile bait. What’s more, nobody could reasonably expect to glean any gory thrills from this raison d'être since it’s not likely that SyFy is going to suddenly spring for the sort of effects budget required to pull it off.
If these are the expectations you’re dealing with, then it’s hard not to deliver on them. Lake Placid vs. Anaconda is exactly the grueling experience expected of it from the minute someone greenlighted it because it’d make for prime time Twitter snark fodder. The same issues that have plagued nearly every SyFy production for a decade recur: the performances are a put-upon brand of bad (hindered by obvious ADR work), the flat cinematography betrays ever bit of the meager budget, and the effects might as well hail from CGI programs developed in 2005. You almost have to admire the steadfast refusal to respond to these criticisms, as nothing has improved; then again, television ratings—which must remain just high enough to justify churning these out—come without comment, I suppose. Nobody in charge cares about quality since it won’t result in a trending topic.
Lake Placid vs. Anaconda adds a new wrinkle of badness into the mix in that it promises a crossover but mostly just delivers Lake Placid 5. Some brief moments that connect the film to the Anaconda series aside (apparently, Annabel Wright’s Sarah Murdoch is carrying on the family business from previous films), it retreads the same ground as The Final Chapter (which obviously was not but should have been), with Butler joining newcomer Corin Nemec (playing a local warden and father to one of the sorority girls) to help save the latest batch of idiots from lining crocodile intestines. It proceeds in this manner for so long that you almost forget this is a crossover until the anaconda part of the equation is horribly rendered into existence for a weak showdown between pixelated garbage. What should be a delightfully gore-soaked clash is the punchline to the joke that is Lake Placid vs. Anaconda.
As is always the case, there’s a sense that this is a missed opportunity, especially during the rare time Lake Placid vs. Anaconda throws you a practical bone or offers some ludicrous moment that would be better served by filmmakers who give a shit (the climax is an especially uproarious monster movie moment that deserves better). Also deserving better are Butler and Englund, the two veterans of this franchise who keep returning despite its unwillingness to provide them with anything worthwhile to do. Both at least seem to find the fun in it all, particularly Englund, who always relishes being on camera no matter the circumstances. His Bickerman is technically sort of a villain, though he comes off as more likeable than anyone else, something the film also seems to acknowledge by having him survive impossible encounters. There’s a great moment early on when he takes off with a bag of cash, and I hoped it would double as a metafictional reflection of Englund finally just taking the money and running the fuck out of the movie for good after an obligatory cameo. If anyone has earned that right, it’s him.
But for every moment like that and for every practical limb that gets fished out of a crocodile, there’s a dozen stunningly bad performances and effects shots. Lake Placid vs. Anaconda is a film that only exists because a corporation happens to own both properties and knows it doesn’t even need to make much of an effort to justify the film’s existence. It’s appropriate that Englund is here because this sub-genre has become the Freddy Krueger of movies: you almost feel compelled to just ignore them in order to take away their power. Instead, I feel complicit in even acknowledging that it exists and has even arrived on home video with a bare bones DVD that features an otherwise solid presentation.
No matter how you take it—be it on television or this disc—you can never shake the feeling that Lake Placid vs. Anaconda was produced with all the enthusiasm of a tax write-off. The only saving grace is that is spared us two separate installments of each franchise.
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