Lake Of Death Review- A Good Ghost Story That Is As Familiar As An Old Coat
Shudders Lake of Death has all the elements of a good ghost story. Familiar and beautiful the Norwegian remake is worth a watch. A remote location with all kinds of awful urban legends, a haunted young woman with a missing brother(she’s an orphan to boot), attractive dopey friends that don’t get the hint even when it’s literally written on their foreheads, and a creepy basement containing a cursed diary and a disturbing dollhouse. Everything you need to develop quality scares is present in director Nini Bull Robsahm remake of the Norwegian classic that is often credited as starting the horror movement in Norway. At times the scares feel a little too familiar. For example, when black ooze attacks a young girl in the tub, you instantly think of Creepshow’s The Raft or Nightmare on Elms Street’s famous bathtub scene.
Lillian and her friends have traveled to her cabin in the woods for one last visit before selling the property. Her twin brother went missing a year ago, and the loss is still fresh. Shortly after arriving, weird things begin happening, and the group is left to fend for themselves in this isolated lake house. The cell phones are gone, the radio is smashed, and the dog has been tied up. If that’s not enough, there is a weird hidden basement, and their host keeps sleepwalking. At least the ghost appears hospitable and made breakfast for them the first morning, which the doofy group eats with very little concern.
Nearly an hour into the movie and not much of consequence happen. Relying solely on atmosphere and tension, which there is plenty of, Robsahm is stingy with his fear. Lake of Death requires a decent amount of patience. The payoff, which isn’t entirely worth it, is still visually stunning and enjoyable for the ultimate predictability of the reveal. As you can imagine the sundry misdirects are just that.
The final ten minutes look and feel like a twisted fairy tale, and if I’m honest is the movie I wish lake of Death were. Although lacking intensity in the end, the lush cinematography and ambiguous ending are more interesting than the first three-fourths of the movie.
The kitchen sink approach to filmmaking was applied here. A dash of The Boy, a sprinkle of Friday the Thirteenth, and a pinch of Misery are all seen. Imitation isn’t a bad thing when done well, and for the most part, Lake of Death works. It wants to remind you of these classics because it needs the audience prepped for the kinds of scares it is going to deliver. Most of the tricks work better if you are already anxious. Thumps in the night, creaking doors, and peering around corners are the stock and trade this film deals in. The movie, which plays almost like a fanfiction appreciation piece, is nonetheless entertaining.
It is well edited by Bob Murawski, who also did Drag Me to Hell and shot beautifully by Axel Mustad, who utilizes the roundness of 35mm film to capture the eerie stillness of the natural surroundings and the decaying cabin. These two really know how to make a horror movie, and it shows. The story is a little lite on plot as many characters serve no purpose other than looking either goofy, ignorant, or menacing, but the music by John Debney makes the most of the performances. Iben Akerlie(Lillian) is particularly adept at being vulnerable and haunted while she is literally haunted.
Borrowing from many of the greats before it, Lake of Death suffers some by comparison to more hardcore horror like Evil Dead or Nightmare on Elm Street, which it clearly references, sometimes in actual quotes by the characters. The best, take away from the film is if there is something in the water in your cabin in the woods best to keep on driving. When something marks you for death and you find all manner of weird shit in a hidden basement it’s best to take the hint. Get out before you are taken out. No free vacation is worth death. If you are looking for something less gory and more innocent this isn’t a bad ghost story. Lake of Death is available on Shudder today.
As the Television Editor for Signal Horizon, I love watching and writing about genre tv. I grew up with old school slashers, but my real passion is television and all things weird and ambiguous. When I’m not watching and writing about my favorite movies and series, I’m introducing my family to the wonderful world of sci-fi, fantasy, and horror. My only regret, there is not enough time in the day to watch everything.