Tag Archives: Horror Movie Review

Blood Lake (1987)

STARRING Doug Barry, Angela Darter, Mike Kaufman, Andrea Adams
RUNTIME 82 Minutes

Six teenagers decide to party one weekend, but before the partying begins one couple disappears. Only to be fount brutally murdered. A blood thirsty killer is stalking their summer playground. One by one bodies begin to show up, as they become prey to the venomous vengeance-seeking maniac.

Blood Lake is a 1987 S.O.V (shot on video) horror film shot in Oklahoma by a young first-time director named Tim Boggs. In the film, an over-weight middle-aged man decides to kill off the group of teenagers that are partying the weekend away at a small lake house that he has been “squatting” in for some time. Blood Lake would also be the last film that Boggs would direct. However, he would have a solid career in sound editing, working on television shows such as Tales From the Crypt and Hercules, as well as on a number of films, including Darkman 3Maniac Cop 3, and House Party 3.

The film was written by another young man by the name of Doug Barry. Barry also stars in the film as “Mike”, the heroic lead. Barry, as with his fellow castmates, does not seem to have any later film credits in any capacity. This makes the film feel like more of a “home movie” or “student project” than a legitimate feature film, but that is arguably the case with most of the SOV films of the 1980’s. As such, both Barry and Boggs serve numerous roles of the film’s “crew”.

The film opens with the murder of the lake house’s gardener. While the film somewhat tries to hide the killer’s appearance, we can tell that he’s an older man with a trim, yet graying beard and notable belly. Imagine if Santa Claus “cleaned up” for a job interview. Before he dies, the victim enigmatically states that he “had nothing to do with what happened” to the man. Needless to say, the murderer did not agree or care.

The focus then shifts to a relatively empty highway. A Trans-Am full of teenagers is cruising down the road, a sports boat in tow. This is accompanied by a hair metal theme song (courtesy of the band “Voyager”) that, while featuring a few decent riffs, is so poorly written as to be cringe-worthy. The singer isn’t helping matters much with his clear inability to hold a note. Despite being an awful song, it’s notably much faster paced than the car.

The car is being driven by Mike. Accompanying him for the trip are his girlfriend, Becky, as well as another couple. For some strange reason, Mike has decided to bring along his much younger brother, Tony, who appears to be no older than 14. Tony sees the trip as a reason for some “strange”, bringing his own “girlfriend”, Susan, along for the trip. Susan might be even younger than Tony.

The gang finally arrives at the house, ready for a weekend full of water sports, drinking, and water sports while drinking. As they exit the car, it is revealed that the home is owned by Becky’s father. Upon entering the house, they are surprised to find that the fridge is stocked full with fresh food and beverages. Becky knows that the food can’t be left over from her last trip to the lake house as it would have surely expired by now. Rather than accepting their good fortune and keeping the food, Becky has Mike throw all of it into the trash. As he makes his way outside to the trash can, we are alerted to the large ominous toolshed located right next to the house. What our cast somehow fails to notice is the large swarm of flies that can be heard (but never seen) buzzing around the building, which is confusing as the flies sound large enough to carry away a small child.

Not much worth mentioning happens for quite some time. Well, that is unless you count Tony’s constant “big man” talk about his plans to get Susan in the sack. Susan, however, clearly has no such plans of her own. We’re introduced to a couple of teenage boys that are also vacationing in the area. They occasionally resurface to hang out and party with Mike and his friends, but ultimately add nothing to the film other than a larger “kill count”. Through it all, Becky continues to seem rattled by the appearance of the mystery groceries, insisting that “things aren’t quite right”. However, that uneasy feeling doesn’t stop her from getting drunk with the rest of her friends.

The odd occurrences continue into the night. While laying in bed, Mike and Becky hear a noise coming from the roof of the house. In this case, the sounds are caused by the killer walking across the roof. While the house isn’t particularly large or impressive, the roof must be in amazing shape in order to withhold the weight of our girthy killer. Mike and Becky run outside to inspect, but nothing or no one is seen. It would appear that despite his size, our killer has cat-like reflexes. Too bad that “cat” is Garfield.

Despite being under 90 minutes long, Blood Lake features a lot of filler, whether it be via sequences of the cast members waterskiing or just sitting around the house drinking. This tends to serve as an excuse for the film to roll out more of Voyager’s excruciating attempts at “music”. They “rock” almost as hard as the mini-van that would later share their name. Either way, anyone looking for action or scares or plot will be forced to wait extended periods of time before anything of importance finally happens. Even then, it’s not very important.

Upon returning to the dock, the 2 neighbors witness the as-yet-unknown-to-them killer snooping around the house. They yell at the man, which scares him off. They then spend the next minute talking about how they’ll “kick his ass”, but never actually bother to give chase. The guys return to the lake house later that night to continue partying with Mike and his crew, but they don’t bother to mention seeing the guy until after another overly extended sequence featuring a game of “Quarters” that only exists to kill another 5 minutes of the film’s 80 minute runtime.

Despite opening with a (albeit off-screen) kill scene, Blood Lake doesn’t feature another death until about 50 minutes into the film. Even for a film with this low of a budget, this little bloodshed is fairly unacceptable from an 80’s slasher (or any era “slasher”, for that matter). The kill count soon increases, but by then it is “too little, too late”.

Ultimately, there really isn’t enough of…. well, anything to recommend Blood Lake. The acting isn’t awful, but it does occasionally get pretty close to it. Despite one fairly impressive throat slashing, “blood” and “gore” are pretty much non-existent. The killer’s identity and motive are finally revealed at the film’s conclusion, but unfortunately, the result is about the same as farting into the wind. It’s stinks, but is quickly forgotten.

Blood Lake surely isn’t as memorably inept as SOV “classic” Sledgehammer, but it’s also not as well-made of a SOV film as……. well, I’m not really sure any of them are very well made.

Pyewacket (2018)

DIRECTOR Adam MacDonald
STARRING Laurie Holden, Nicole Munoz
RELEASE DATE March 23, 2018 (US)
RUNTIME 90 Minutes

A frustrated, angst-ridden teenage girl awakens something in the woods when she naively performs an occult ritual to evoke a witch to kill her mother.

Pyewacket is an ominous word. It seems harmless enough on the surface, a childish nonsense invective but when you really listen to the word…there’s just something about it that is off. Maybe it’s the way the word can be said as a swear, or uttered in prayer, with a low guttural sound, a harsh bark and a naming convention for a black magic ritual.

Pyewacket is also an unsettling horror film brought to us by Backcountry director, Adam MacDonald. This film is black magic gone wrong, represented in all the right ways. The dread creeps and compounds in Jaws-like fashion. The truth of the situation is always hard to read and this movie really brings that home time and again. In fact one could argue that the one true theme of this film is belief, in not being able to trust what you know.

“Be careful what you believe in.” This line is uttered by an author of occult literature to our heroine Leah (played well by Nicole Muñoz), and it truly defines the experience of watching this film. We the viewers are never quite sure what is actually happening as events unfold, and even at the very end there is doubt as to the fate of our protagonist.

This is due largely in part to the fine script by MacDonald. He throws you right in the mix, you the viewer are a part of the lived in lives of these people on screen, as much a visitor as Pyewacket itself. The audience is challenged to make inferences about the lives on display here and it plays out really well, and helps keep the movie from becoming too predictable. Couple that with a mother who is  dealing with the stress of grief and loss poorly and a teenage girl dealing with loss and upheaval and the occult. We watch as these elements all slowly coalesce to a fine finish to the film.

Also on display here some some stunning cinematography by Christian Bielz. The use of drone shots kept the movie flowing constantly and stopped things from getting stagnant when it was just Leah or her mom on screen, and Bielz has a fantastic eye for composition of shots. The cinematography is, in my opinion, what sets this story apart from others in the same vein.

The story does little to break new ground, and even tips its hat a bit in the second and third act. Which brings me to my only real critique of the film,this is a smart film but it gets dumbed down a bit by having to explain what exactly is going on and I felt that these exposition dumps, once with a group of friends and then again with the renowned writer over skype, disrupted the mystery and the tension the creators spent almost two acts growing.

Ultimately Pyewacket is deserving of your attention and worth a rent off of Amazon, the elevator pitch should have been, “What if wishing harm on another went a little too far?” I could go into more detail and would if it didn’t end up veering into spoiler territory.So just take my recommendation and check this one out as soon as possible..