Sunday, October 4, 2015

Monster Team-up Reflection #26: Lake Placid vs Anaconda


Like "Hellraiser" and "Howling", the "Anaconda" and "Lake Placid" franchises have crept onto the direct-to-home-viewing path. There's no shame in that. It just categorizes them as modern B-movie equivalents and as such, distinguishes them further from the pretentious dribble that Oscar-geared Hollywood markets. 

Directed by A.B. Stone and scripted by Berkeley Anderson, "Lake Placid vs Anaconda" is really a sequel to the third and fourth chapters of the former, having no direct connection to the crazed crocodile original. In the same vein, the new film's primary giant snake is a distant relative to the specimen introduced in the original, unofficial "Creature from the Black Lagoon" remake. (I know, some claim that the initial "Anaconda" is derivative of "Jaws", but structurally it's the Jack Arnold classic.)

Returning from "Lake Placid 3" and "...the Final Chapter" is Yancy Butler as Sheriff  Reba and from the later, Robert Englund as Jim Bickerman, who's happily sold his soul for monetary gain, leading a bad-guy brigade into the crocs' realm. (His presence amounts to an extended cameo at best, but his fan base will surely appreciate the rekindling of his crabby characterization.)

The immediate bad guys are led by the high-strung Mr. Beach (Stephen Billington), who oversees a scientific group intent on concocting a croc-snake hybrid, with a female anaconda being injected with croc DNA to create a Fountain of Youth formula (based on research founded in "Anacondas: Hunt for the Blood Orchid": the second in that slithering series). 

The anacondas (two males, plus the primary female) and an oversized croc are contained in a high-tech trailer before they escape, thus dumping more mayhem on the already carnage-prone area. Oddly, despite the constant croc threat, the escalating trouble isn't identified until the attacks are well underway: Reba doesn't appear too concerned about the matter, even when confronted by her edgy mayor (Nigel Barber) and relies on bumbling Deputy Ferguson (Oliver Walker) to scope the surroundings. 

In the meantime, Beach meets up with the mean Ms. Murdoch (Annabel Wright), a pharmaceutical head who decides to dispatch another monster-hunting team to capture the injected anaconda. This proves a daunting task, but the team is at least spared a quick demise, thanks to a group of sorority girls who act as more accessible bait. 

The main good girl is Bethany (Skye Lourie), whose father, William "Tully" Tull (Corin "Stargate SG-1" Nemec) is a conscientious, wildlife ranger. When he learns of the bloodshed, he wastes no time to confront it (particularly to protect his little girl) and to ensure the job gets done, teams with Reba. 

The sorority villainess is Tiffani (Laura Dale), who behaves gestapo-like with the girls, forcing them into nonsensical tests with her assigned boyfriends. Perhaps even more than the militant Murdoch, Tiffani weaves an insidious (albeit sometimes silly) web throughout the harsh sojourn, making her ripe for a tasty comeuppance. 

In the end, it's the baddies against the monsters against the good guys. Who wins? Who loses? Well, you'll have to watch to find out, dear friends.

I will say this, "Lake Placid/Anaconda" is short and bitterly sweet, but its brevity may be perceived as a hindrance. Though we see the monsters frequently, there's little back story to them, let alone any real meat to their confrontations. The final melee is effective in a goofy sort of way, but also mirrors prior fights and seems too truncated for its own good. An all-out brawl, with trees knocked over and humans crushed and crunched, is what was needed to pump up the exploitative thrills, but instead, we only get teases of what could have been. (The initial croc rampage aboard the trailer, along with the anacondas' flight, is probably the film's best sequence, leaving an anticlimactic feel to much that follows.)

Thankfully, the human interaction never weighs down the pace, with the sorority girls playing up their unclothed charms to compensate for their trite banter. Butler is also her usual, intense self, bridging the sorority hi jinks and gruesome deaths with much needed seriousness. 

"Lake Placid/Anaconda" isn't the best monster team-up ever made (not by a damn long shot), but like an endearing old, drive-in flick or a direct-to-video Full Moon production, it still hits the spot. Take it for what it is; you may find there are far worse ways to kill ninety minutes of your time. 

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