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Lake Placid: The Final Chapter (2012)

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
DVD Released: 2/19/2013

All Ratings out of
Extras: No Extras

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 2/5/2013

For decades (Wow, has it really been decades?), home video companies have known how to structure their direct-to-video sequels. Although it may seem counterintuitive, there will always be someone who decides to rent a movie with a number on the end of the title despite the fact that they haven't seen any of the other entries in the series. Because of this, most of these films begin with a recap of the last movie, or an overview of the series. (Simply look to Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter for a great example of how to do this.) This will allow the viewer to catch up. But, every now and then, we get a movie which doesn't care if you have any clue what's happening at the outset, and Lake Placid: The Final Chapter falls squarely into that category.

Lake Placid: The Final Chapter takes us back to Black Lake, the New England locale famous for giant crocodiles. As the story opens, construction is being completed on a huge electric fence near the lake, which has been designed to keep the crocodiles inside the perimeter. Reba Butler (Yancy Butler) represents the games commission and it's her job to keep an eye on the crocodiles. Sheriff Theresa Giove (Elisabeth Rohm) is in charge of keeping the peace, along with Ryan Loflin (Paul Nicholls). Ryan's son, Max (Benedict Smith), is part of the crew building the fence. Theresa encourages her bookworm daughter, Chloe (Poppy Lee Friar), to get out and do more and when she's offered a chance to go on a school trip, Theresa gives permission. Unfortunately, the bus driver on this trip is distracted by his cell phone, and drives into the fenced area. Thinking that they are at another lakefront spot, the kids begin to have a good time and then the crocodiles attack. Meanwhile, Max and his crew have been attacked by crocodiles who were being pursued by poachers. Theresa learns of this and recruit Ryan and Reba to help her save the kids.

I never got around to seeing Lake Placid 3 (And I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing) and I honestly have very little idea what happened in that movie. Being a direct-to-video veteran, I'd expected Lake Placid: The Final Chapter to offer some explanations, but it didn't. It simply opened with the fence being completed and Reba, Theresa, and Ryan patrolling the lake. None of this is the third act of Trading Places, so I immediately grasped that the fence was built as protection against the crocodiles and that the group in the boat was looking for crocodiles, but that was all that I got. Reba appeared in Lake Placid 3, so I suppose that some viewers were familiar with her, but Theresa and Ryan are new to this movie, but the film acts as if we are supposed to know exactly who they are.

Lack of proper character development is only one of the problems with this film. This is yet another of the current wave of low budget animal/monster on the loose movies which use questionable CGI. The crocodile attacks are rather frequent in the film, but the crocs often aren't to scale with the humans or their attack is slightly off-center due to the low-rent visual effects. I know that CG is all the rage, but there's something so much more visceral and effective knowing that the actor is being bitten by a latex and steel structure. Sure, we know that it's still fake, but those old-school creature attacks were far more effective. Again, we get a lot of attacks here, which sounds like a good thing -- the movie is action-packed right? The problem is that we never get a handle on how many crocodiles there are and the random nature of the maulings, combined with the CG, makes these scenes numbing after a while.

There's not much happening in the story department either. Despite the fact that it took two people to write this, we don't get a clever plot and there are no twists here. The movie is very straightforward and it could have used some zig-zags as it moved from Point A to Point B. The other problem here is that there are simply too many characters. We've got the school kids (most of whom are interchangeable), the poachers, and the rescuers, all of whom are separated for most of the movie. Therefore, the film cuts back and forth between them and the cuts are often at odd times.

In 1999, TV mogul David E. Kelley surprised us all by writing and producing Lake Placid, a movie about a giant crocodile on the loose which has strong comic overtones. The movie offered a cast of very familiar faces, but failed to set the box-office on fire. Still, it did well enough to produce sequels, none of which were able to capture the charm of that first movie. Save for the presence of giant crocodiles, Lake Placid: The Final Chapter doesn't feel as if it's an off-shoot of that movie, but it certainly does feel like a direct-to-video sequel, recap or not.

Lake Placid: The Final Chapter demonstrates why you should never watch a girlie movie while driving on DVD courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look good and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is good for a DVD and the image never goes soft. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The growling of the crocodiles and the attack scenes provide nice subwoofer effects. The surround sound effects are prevalent during the second half of the film and help to highlight the impression of a crocodile attacking someone from behind. The stereo effects show good separation.

The Lake Placid: The Final Chapter DVD contains no extra features.

Review by Mike Long. Copyright 2013.