US Rating: Unrated
Film Length: 91 Mins (Versus 90 mins for the R Rated version)
Aspect Ratio: 1:78.1
Audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: Optional English and Spanish
The Film - out of
In 2006, a festival of horror films was created – sharing with eager horror fans independently produced genre movies that promised to chill them to their bones, scare them to death and entrance them, as the marketing goes, in a state of fear. After Dark Films brought together eight films that would likely not otherwise have found an audience. This ‘Horrorfest’ festival assembled little known or unheard of films that dealt with stories of ghosts and ghouls; the grim and gross. The 2007 Horrorfest sought to reignite the success of the first festival, by bringing to audiences a collection of 8 more films to die for. The films in the 2007 festival included tales of zombies, ghosts, strange creatures and the end of the world. The collection of 2007’s ‘8 Films To Die For’ include Nightmare Man, Unearthed, Tooth and Nail, Lake Dead, The Deaths of Ian Stone, Mulburry St. , Borderland and Crazy Eights.
When three sisters learn (from their estranged father) that a grandfather thought long dead had died and left them an old motel, they agree to take a trip out to see the property and decide if they will keep it or sell it. One sister goes on ahead but the other two, along with a boyfriend and a couple of other buddies take a camper and make the long road trip into the woods. The fun weekend adventure takes a serious turn for the worse when two of the friends are found brutally murdered after searching for fire wood. The murderous rampage is only half the battles these kids face, as the kind townsfolk turn out to be more than just the simple backwoods folk they claim to be.
Lake Dead cobbles together familiar horror fundamentals; creepy lakeside cabins, teens fighting for their lives and inbred madmen hacking away at them, and tries its hand at mixing, a little family drama with its gore and perpetual peril. Written by Daniel P. Coughlin and directed by George Bessudo, this member of 2007’s Horrorfest lineup arrives with a story absent of originality and whose only hope would be some boldness or creativity in its execution. It has neither. Admittedly the cast is able to pull off the transition from young and carefree to terrified victims well enough to not dismiss the film down as total drivel, but they add little weight beyond mild amusement (Alex A. Quinn), ordinary heroism (Jim Devoti) and good old fashion sexy (Malea Richardson).
The film falls somewhere between a familiar slasher flick and the current trend of torture exploits. The bloody spotlight on terrified victims as an aggressor heartlessly inflicts sick and twisted pains upon them had a big footprint in this film – likely because that’s where the genre has been spending a lot of its time.
The recent fascination with torture; films that happily lingering on pain and suffering, has been a curious development. The grizzly fodder, once of low-budget and shadowed fare, has found a mainstream acceptance which unfortunately lessens the value and stretches the worth of these films. With the exception of the Saw series, which achieved a successful balance of gruesome torturous fascination and ingenuity in horrific twists, the recent spate of agony examination has failed to accomplish anything substantive. Admittedly, the focus on torture, which seems to appeal to the morbidly curious and those who enjoy gore without clever plotting or circumstances, does little to hold my interest. But, despite not being my cup of tea, such films seem to prove that the horror genre is ailing. Moving the stories away from scares and chills born from our imaginations running wild to showing us in abundant detail the grotesqueries of suffering, has robbed these films of their riches.
Where Lake Dead really seems to fail is from adding nothing to the genre. That’s not to say the expectation is for each horror film to take a stab at redefining the field, but they need to at least to find a way to make a ripple; to stand out in some way, small or large in order to matter. Films like Hostel, The Hills Have Eyes remake and Wrong Turn have managed to find success with this permutation of gruesome exploits, but beyond the initial fascination of just how far they will go to bludgeon, chop, hack, slice and dice, I can’t help but feel they only move the genre sideways, rather than forward. It doesn’t help, of course, that I have to look away every time a finger nail is ripped away from the finger; an arm hacked off at the elbow of eyes gouged out. My stomach just can’t take it.
Lake Dead is presented 16X9 and in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.78:1. There are plenty of daytime scenes which come across just fine but the night scenes and those in tight quarters appear grainy at times and fine detail is hard to come by. The overall average image, obviously that of a small budget film, manages to be appropriate for the film and doesn’t suffer from the softness found in some of the other transfers of 2007’s Horrorfest films.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound for Lake Dead is suitable for the set up portion of the film, but lacks energy and spine-tingling opportunities when the action kicks in. Activity in the surrounds is limited and bass achievement is narrow. Some scenes appear to have an issue with the timing as the actors mouths are moving not in time with the audio track. It isn’t persistent but does show up a couple of time and is noticeable.
Miss Horrorfest Contest Webisodes - (19:19) – Split in to several chapters that you can select or choose a ‘play all’ feature, this quest to find and crown the next Miss Horrorfest comes off like the slew of annoying ‘reality’ show excess clogging up the airwaves (and now the internet). Basically a classless diversion and mostly irrelevant to the horror film proceedings.
Lake Dead isn’t a terrible film, it simply does nothing for the genre and little for good old fashions scares. The plodding story dulls excitement and the villains of the film are the sort that has been done before with much greater success. While the gore effects, especially the first bloody showing in the motel, are effective, the make-up on several bad guys doesn’t work. Fans of the famous X-Files episode, the first to ever receive the ‘viewer discretion advised’ warning before it aired, will have a comparison to make and will, like me, conclude that The X-Files did it better, scarier and with a heck of a lot more originality.