Tag Archives: Horror 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.

Lake Mungo (2008)

DIRECTOR Joel Anderson
STARRING Talia Zucker, Rosie Traynor, David Pledger
DISTRIBUTOR Arclight Films
RELEASE DATE June 18, 2008
RUNTIME 89 Minutes
COUNTRY Australia

Alice drowns while swimming and her family begins experiencing inexplicable events in their home. The family hires a parapsychologist whose investigation unveils Alice’s secret double life and leads them all to Lake Mungo.

If my opinion was formed based on the general description of this film my initial discernment would be “Okay…another found footage ghost story.” But My girlfriend and I have the rule to finish the entire film, no matter how bad it may be…Well, my prediction made me look like a damn fool. Not only does this movie satisfy your craving for a fresh spin on the ghost story; it throws you into an eerie ambiance of Suburban Australia that is not what it seems. It’s more a mockumentary than found footage as if it were a crime documentary on Dateline NBC. I would have never expected the excellent plot twists and unraveling creepy secrets that this film delivers on the unsuspecting audience.

We are introduced to the Palmer family and the recent tragedy they have endured: the mysterious drowning of their teenage daughter, Alice Palmer. (Palmer? That sounds familiar and I’m sure that was no accident)

At the surface, she appears an average happy teenage girl with a loving family and boyfriend subject to an accidental tragedy, but as the story trudges through interviews of the family and friends things begin to get spooky. Alice’s brother sets up cameras to capture a ghostly apparition creeping around their home, as well as further viewing of footage from the day of her drowning we notice a lone figure reminiscent of Alice lurking in the background. This may seem like a set up for generic found footage plot device but it is definitely used to its advantage.

The story is told through a collection of interviews and footage from home video, audio tapes, and cell phones. This medium produces an unsettling realism that makes us think “Do we really know the people we call our friends? Our family?” Even the acting, which is irrelevant if it can be considered bad or good, adds to the effect that this film is all too human. Lake Mungo slowly shatters our perception of intimacy and shows us an exercise in the existential crisis, especially among the “so-called” happy suburban family.  The film is not just a slow burn, but a candle slowly burning out leaving us empathic to the feelings of loneliness and shame.

If Joel Anderson wasn’t influenced by Twin Peaks then I must be in an alternate universe, because the movie is riddled with Lynchian moments of secrets, mystery, and in its subtle form the surreal, especially in the film’s conclusion. The only thing lacking is soft synth scores and people speaking in reverse. And I’m not even being critical of the similarities, I think it makes the movie even more enjoyable. I applaud Joel Anderson’s writing and directing in this film 100 percent because it is rare a movie can make flip my opinion so aggressively.

So if you’re into creepy slow burning ghost stories with some mystery to them I strongly recommend this film. After viewing it once I wanted to watch it again just because I wanted to make sure there weren’t any hidden things I could have missed when I blinked or glanced away from the screen. The film might be something you wouldn’t want to watch alone late at night, just because it makes you paranoid something is waiting behind your peripheral view. It is a great addition to my collection and will watch it again. If I were you I would def give this underrated Australian gem a chance.