And so here we are, on the opening night of Cloverfield. This is a film that, as a huge fan of creature features, I devoutly hope will be good. So my thoughts on that perhaps next week. But with the possibility of the first original giant monster movie to come out of Hollywood since… since… Tremors?… being worth seeing, an unfortunate screening experience last night has moved me to reconsider some remarks I made here some time ago. At the time, I was mounting a defense of cheap CGI creature-featrues (of the sort that inevitably winds up on the Sci-Fi Channel) by making the case that they were analogous to the B-level monster movies of the fifties.
To a certain degree, I stand by those remarks. But I do wish to temper them somewhat, because I just watched Lake Placid 2. In the first place, this is a sequel a little tardy in coming. But perhaps the filmmakers were counting on the fact that most people would remember little else beyond the original’s title and the fact that there was a crocodile, since they re-use the same character types (only none are at all interesting). The humour of the original has also gone AWOL, even though the film seems to think that it’s being funny (it isn’t).
So far, so terrible, then. But these flaws are hardly unusual in low-budget monster movies, now or in the past. We come to these things to see the monster, after all, and anything more than that is (perhaps unfortunately) pure gravy. But we do need a monster.
Lake Placid 2 tries to deliver on this front with not one, but four crocodiles. But apart from the often rather confusing editing, which makes it very hard to tell how many crocs the characters are facing at one time, the CGI is so dismal that the animals convey no sense of physical presence whatsoever. Hell, for that matter, they’re just plain blurry. Even the worst man-in-a-suit was at least visible. I’m not sure precisely what combination of elements made this effort so depressing for me, but there was a real sense of being at the end of my tether. Perhaps it’s being spoiled by the likes of The Host, which shows how good a monster movie can be. Or The Call of Cthulhu, for that matter, which shows what can be done with a minuscule budget but a tone of imagination. Maybe it’s the fact that Lake Placid 2 shows no sign of any effort whatsoever on the part of those responsible to make something with even a vestigial spark of originality, or even entertainment value. It’s nothing more than 90 minutes around which to place commercials.
Consider this, then, my plea to the gods (i.e. the film industry). We know that good monster movies are possible. They’re appearing. So do more of those. And if you can’t, if you really feel that pressed by your budget, if you’re going to show me crap FX, show me crap FX of a monster I haven’t seen before, and not yet another bored-looking crocodile.