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“LAKE OF DEATH” is The Lodgers Part 2, and Not in a Good Way.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020 | Streaming Sematary

Starring: Iben Akerlie, Patrick Walsh McBride, Jonathan Harboe
Directed by Nini Bull Robsahm
Written by Nini Bull Robsahm
Produced by Canopy Film

It’s never a good sign when you watch a Shudder Original on the day of its release and it has 2 out of 5 skulls already.

It’s new release week here in the Sematary, and I decided to kick things off with the new Shudder Original LAKE OF DEATH, which LOOKED like the next big new ghost story/psychological horror. But as you can probably already gather, LAKE OF DEATH was a massive letdown. If loud whispering and looking at yourself in the mirror scares you, this is the movie for you.

LAKE OF DEATH follows Lillian (Iben Akerlie) as her and a group of friends go on a trip to the lake where her brother Bjorn (Patrick Walsh McBride) disappeared many years ago. The lake itself is somewhat infamous, being the site of a murder suicide where a man named Gruvik killed his wife and her lover before drowning himself as well. Bjorn’s disappearance does nothing but reinforce the legend of the lake as an almost sentient entity, a locus of evil that compels people to jump in and let themselves sink in its icy depths, which are said to be bottomless. Yet Gabriel (Jonathan Harboe), Lillian’s ex, believes returning to the lake might help Lillian overcome the bouts of sleepwalking and mental illness that have overtaken her since she left. But something seems to be calling to Lillian from within the lake, drawing her to it every night; and as that something infects her friends, picking them off one by one, dark secrets are revealed and the true nature of what happened all those years ago comes to light.

“If LAKE OF DEATH used any of it’s references to other films to bolster the plot, it could have been great: sadly, it seems content just to reference other, better films.”
That sounds pretty cool, right? That’s what I thought too; until I realized that the first forty or so minutes of the movie would be a slow burn with intermittent bullshit jump scares, little character work, and only the occasional subtle chill to keep me hooked. There were quite a few fake-out jump scares early on: you know, the kind where characters got scared by their own reflections, a friend appeared behind them, or something else innocuous and distinctly not terrifying arriving on screen, always accompanied of course by a sound akin to someone jumping off the Empire State Building and landing on a bunch of broken pianos. This movie scares itself more than it will scare you, and by the time it ramps up to the interesting bits (which are all fairly derivative anyways) you simply won’t care anymore. Speaking of derivative, this movie tends to jokingly reference other movies a lot, movies it briefly borrows elements from that don’t really do anything to elevate the plot. The Evil Dead, Cabin Fever, and Cabin in the Woods are all brought up by the film’s horror nerd, small elements taken from each ramping up to the climax, but nothing is really done with any of those elements; they only serve as pointless distractions from what’s really going on. What really surprises me is that this film didn’t explicitly connect itself to the movie it’s most like: 2017’s The Lodgers. The elements are all here: sister trapped by imagined obligations to her family, a brother-sister relationship that would make the Lannisters cringe, black ichor/murky lake water streaming everywhere, and a mysterious trapdoor that ghosts come out of. And frankly, The Lodgers was a better movie, because we understood from the get-go what the stakes for the main character were, and… well, she was a character. Much of who Lillian is isn’t completely understood till the last ten minutes or so of the film, and she spends the duration of the film wandering expressionless through contrived jumpscares and tropey paranormal phenomena. The only things we know about her throughout the film are the things she tells us, and even those are revealed to be slight misdirects by the end.


The film chooses to misdirect it’s audience in a way that, I believe, hurts it: the whole monologue about Stendahl syndrome, or the idea that nature could be so beautiful that you get absorbed in it and lose touch with reality, has nothing at all to do with why the lake is so terrifying to Lillian. And this movie is not a psychological horror film, not really: the ending makes clear that the entity in the lake was directly responsible for all the bullshit that came before, not Lillian or her friends. What the lake represents is trauma, specifically her guilt over leaving her brother behind even though her brother was a horrible, manipulative, abusive individual. Her ultimate fear is that this trauma will consume her, that she’ll forever be bound to him and the lake where he disappeared; the whole thing is a metaphor for the scars left by abuse. And here’s the thing: there’s really no reason to keep that a secret. Saving that reveal for the last five minutes of the film leaves us (and the main character) dazedly wandering through the majority of the film, moving from cliché to cliché, vaguely wondering why all of this is happening but not truly caring. On top of all that, the ending is the infuriating and confusing cherry on top of this ichor-soaked sundae: it feels like it was meant to shock, but considering it was completely incongruous with anything that happened in the ten minutes that preceded it (the climax), it just left me really, really frustrated.

On a final note, this movie could actually be classified as a remake: it was “inspired” by a Norwegian horror film by the same name from 1958. I read the plot summary on Wikipedia and it sounds like a solid movie: borderline Lovecraftian horror without a trace of modern horror clichés that make this film nearly unwatchable. Go see that instead. I’m giving LAKE OF DEATH a 3 out of 10.

On Friday, we cover Impetigore.

James Tucker
AHH! Who gave the intern a keyboard? James Tucker has no qualifications to speak of, aside from being an English major and a lifelong horror nerd. In addition to writing the column “Streaming Semetery” for Rue Morgue, he is also an editing intern for Crystal Lake Publications and has also acted as an editorial assistant for the University of Central Florida’s Journal of Wyndham Lewis Studies. In his spare time, he conducts undergraduate level research on horror films and writes his own (terminally shitty) horror fiction. (A real party animal, this one.) Since that’s about the extent of his achievements so far, he would also like you to know he’s a huge GHOST fan and his favorite horror movie is Hereditary.