LAKE OF DEATH *** Norway 2019 Dir: Nini Bull Robsahm. 94 mins
Based on the 1958 movie LAKE OF THE DEAD this 21st century adaptation introduces us to Lillian (Iben Akerlie) and a group of her friends as they go back to her families cabin by the lake where her twin brother Bjorn (Patrick Walshe McBride) drowned a year ago. Plagued by guilt which is causing her to sleepwalk and have recurring nightmares of black slime Lillian wanted to go back there to face her demons and get some closure on the situation as she believes it was Bjorns jealousy of her that led to his death. Lillians friends are looking to have a bit of fun whilst trying to support her but they find themselves questioning their friendships and fearing for their lives as a strange presence soon begins to make itself known.
I found this movie incredibly stunning visually and really eerie to start with but my enthusiasm did falter a fair bit when I realised the build ups never really went anywhere. The characters seem stereotypically Scandinavian… quiet, brooding and intelligent but even though they’re supposed to be friends (even the couple) none of them seem to like each other and they are constantly bickering. They are very self aware though with more then a few references to THE EVIL DEAD and A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET. One of the group Bernhard (Jakob Schoyen Anderson), a horror fan and podcaster, is hoping to get some good ghost stories for his podcast on the paranormal. He doesn’t have to wait long as a friend of Lillians family Kai (Ulric van der Esch) regales the friends with the story of Gruvik. A local man who, many years ago, murdered his wife and her lover then drowned himself in the lake. This plants the seed within all of us that paranormal activity will be a large part of the movie putting us all on high alert. Pretty soon after that tale strange things start happening, Harald (Elias Munk) wakes up one morning with DEAD written across his forehead naturally he accuses the others of doing it as a joke but no one owns up to it. The breakfast table has been set and breakfast made but no one knows who did it or why there is an extra place set. Getting a bit freaked out by this and the disappearance of their dog they do some investigating and discover that the cabin has its very own EVIL DEAD style basement and things start to shift from the supernatural to an unsavoury character living in the basement type scenario.
It is really creepy at times and does rely on a few jump scares but none of it amounts to much. I suppose that by the end of the movie you realise the supernatural element is more implied than real and was never meant to be the major factor in this which is clever and brings more realism to the whole thing. There are only a few kills all off screen but the practical effects used to show the aftermath are good. As mentioned the scenery and cinematography are both eerie and incredibly beautiful, the score is haunting and effective and it is well acted if a bit stiff at times. I have not seen LAKE OF THE DEAD from 1958 to make any comparisons but this version certainly sounds like it sticks to a similar premise and uses the same character names only changes them up a bit from the original. I was just left feeling a bit let down by the build ups never really going anywhere and it certainly did not live up to my expectations from its trailer.
Review by Sarah Budd