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John’s Horror Corner: Lake of Death (2019; aka De dødes tjern), one of the only Scandinavian horror movies I would NOT recommend.

August 1, 2020

MY CALL: I have not seen the 1958 classic horror film Lake of the Dead, but it must be better than this drivel (inspired by the original). This film begins by lulling you into a false sense of comfort with promising acting, writing, concepts and cinematography. But, oh, just you wait… it will bore you to death and beat you into regret. MORE MOVIES LIKE Lake of Death: For more (and far superior) Norwegian and Scandinavian horror, try Midsommar (2019), The Ritual (2017), Troll Hunter (2010) Thale (2012), Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010), Let the Right One In (2008) and Dead Snow (2009).

REMAKE/REIMAGINING SIDEBAR: For more horror remakes, I strongly favor the following: Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978), An American Werewolf in London (1981), The Thing (1982), The Fly (1986), The Mummy (1999), The Ring (2002), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003), The Hills Have Eyes (2006), Friday the 13th (2009), Let Me In (2010), Evil Dead (2013), Carrie (2013), The Town That Dreaded Sundown (2014), It (2017), Suspiria (2018) and Child’s Play (2019).

Those to avoid include
Body Snatchers (1993; the second remake), War of the Worlds (2005), The Invasion (2007; the third remake), Prom Night (2008), Sorority Row (2009), Night of the Demons (2009), Patrick: Evil Awakens (2013), Poltergeist (2015), Martyrs (2015), Cabin Fever (2016), Unhinged (2017) and The Mummy (2017).

I’m on the fence about An American Werewolf in Paris (1997), The Grudge (2004), Halloween (2007), It’s Alive (2009), My Bloody Valentine (2009), A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010), Fright Night (2011), The Thing (2011; a prequel/remake), Maniac (2012), Viy: Forbidden Empire (2014), Inside (2016), Rabid (2019) and Pet Sematary (2019), which range from bad to so-so (as remakes) but still are entertaining movies on their own.

To toy with the audience, this film begins with a basic notion: that we may cast reflections that are actually different versions of ourselves…

Ready for a carefree getaway, Gabriel (Jonathan Harboe), Bernhard (Jakob Schøyen Andersen), Sonja (Sophia Lie) and Harald (Elias Munk), Lillian (Iben Akerlie; Mortal) and Kai (Ulric von der Esch) are heading to a cabin for the weekend.

Lillian’s twin brother Bjorn (Patrick Walshe McBride; Dracula) disappeared during a solitary hike at this family lake house. Now returning for one final visit to this property before selling it, Lillian finds the very sight of the home jarring, haunting her with memories of her vanished twin. Lillian’s dog Totto (like Dorothy’s Toto) noticeably shares her fear of the house.

Like people in the real world, they joke about horror tropes and reference specific movies (e.g., Misery, NOES, Evil Dead, Cabin Fever). It’s kind of refreshing actually. Despite being a foreign language film this “feels” well-acted, the cinematography is lovely, and the writing is quite smooth. This feels like a proper film and not some horror flick.

We learn that the lake has something of a haunted folklore behind it—wood nymphs, water spirits, lunatic killers. At first the horror manifests largely as visions, dreams and hallucinations… even a mysteriously prepared breakfast. When strange things transpire, the group points the finger at Lillian’s sleepwalking problem or the podcaster (Bernhard) who is investigating the haunted lake for his show.

Honestly, as well made as this film is overall, the scares are weak. Really weak, and really disappointing. Overuse of black liquid (maybe blood?) in visions are intended as frightening but start to feel like a low budget drama club ploy. To be honest, the first act was promising and engaging, but act two has proven very boring. Well, let’s just see what the final act offers… maybe it could turn things around, right?

Nope. The third act was hot garbage. I completely hated the last 30 minutes. I realize that’s a strong word, but this film has earned it. This dumpster fire is dumb, unexciting even with special effects, lacks even one good death scene, and offers stupid plot resolution regarding the long-vanished brother. Dumb, dumb, dumb. Anything about this film that was once promising was undone, squandered, covered in crap and lit on fire by the wretched ending.

The trailer had me expecting Cabin Fever (2002, 2016) meets Evil Dead (1981, 2013). But what I got was… well, just plain bad and nothing of the sort (i.e., nothing at all as advertised). This was a complete uneventful bore. I can’t believe this crap was a remake. I feel badly for everyone involved.

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