July 22, 2013

Lost Lake (2012)

"A young couple travels to a deserted town to try and find their mysterious uncle, only to discover that ghosts are real and very dangerous."

I'm a little bit flummoxed about how to review "Lost Lake". It's not that I've forgotten how to review movies to the extent that I need to MacDougall one from somebody else, but I can barely scrape together enough enthusiasm to put one word after another after watching this turd.

If I had my druthers (as they say round here), I'd be writing a review of "The Conjuring" right now instead of this one. Unfortunately, due to unforeseen circumstances and the heat, I still haven't gone to the movie theatre since "The Conjuring" started playing, and it's starting to annoy me that I've fallen behind everyone else this time. The worst case scenario will be that I wait for the DVD to be released. I'm bound to buy it based on the very positive buzz that's already flying around the internet, so it's not as if you actually need a review of "The Conjuring" from me anyway.

Just to tide everyone over until I'm back on track, I was looking for other ghostie movies to watch yesterday and came across "Lost Lake" on Amazon. Although I'm sure a lot of people have watched it, nobody seems to have had very much to say about it online. Thus, to redress the balance, I thought I'd give it a try. I thought, "It's only 80 minutes long, it's about ghosties, so what could be the harm in watching it?" Little did I know that it was going to be one of the longest 80 minutes of my life.

For a low-budget movie, "Lost Lake" starts off extremely well. I have to admit that the first jump scare is so well-timed that it actually got me. That rarely happens nowadays so I thought I was really going to enjoy everything which followed. As I was watching the movie "cold" with only a vague awareness of the subject matter and no idea about who was in it, it was all a case of "Thrill me!" and "Let's see what you can do!" rather than the predominantly negative way that I've been approaching "indie" dreck recently. After all the multipack reviews I did a few weeks ago, you can't blame me for being jaded, but I honestly wanted to like this movie.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, everything went downhill from the moment I saw the lead characters. It's not that they are the typical pretty teens in trouble, but bald-chested John Shartzer (who plays Jeff) looks about 12 years old, and I initially thought that his character was incestuously in bed with his older sister or something. When the next scene had him playing on the floor with a toy robotic arm, it took a while for it to sink in that he was supposed to be a nerdy student rather than a mentally retarded pervert. It was only when I scrutinized Katie Keene (who plays Tricia) more closely that I realised she was equally young. I doubt that she is more than 18 or 19, and it kind of made me feel like a dirty old man for ogling her as the story progressed. Katie Keene is very photogenic though.

The next thing which gave me pause was the intentional misdirection about Uncle Vern's identity which could have been good if it hadn't caused me a moment of total confusion and an unresolved question which remained with me for a few minutes after the movie ended. I'm not going to spoil it for you, but once you've seen "Lost Lake" for yourself, feel free let me know in the comments section if you get what I'm talking about. The motivation for a lot of things which happen in this movie is so poorly explained that I don't think there even is a good answer. The realisation of whatever clever ideas evidently went into the script sucks, and it's very frustrating.

A more outstanding example of ineptitude is when what should be a scary supernatural scene just isn't. As the leads investigate an abandoned grocery store, it's a time when some imaginative jump scares could make a lasting impression. For whatever reason, possibly budgetary, the gags aren't even set-up enough to fall flat, so ultimately, this botched non-event adds nothing but a decoy for possessed Uncle Vern (Ezra Buzzington) to do something important which we don't find out about until later. It's a plot contrivance for sure, but it could have been handled so much better.

While the camerawork and acting are fairly decent, it's not only the plot but the lack of horror action which really lets "Lost Lake" down. Apart from a severed finger and some realistic reactions to it, nothing much happens at all gore-wise. When it does, the bits you want to see are either off camera or too dark.

Contrarily, an unneccessary bit of animal cruelty involving a white mouse and a snake is something that I didn't want to see. Yes, I know that there are weirdo reptile owners who have to feed their pets as nature intended, but this scene is both gratuitous and superfluous. I may understand what writer/director Marcus Nash was trying to do, but I don't approve of it.

Filmed in Trona, California, a desolate place which I was intigued enough by to look up on Wikipedia, "Lost Lake" is all about a location which struggles to lift everything a couple of notches higher than the horrible storytelling will allow. Apart from a few tell-tale signs which give away that it isn't really a ghost town, including the electricity still being connected and a physical sign for "Free Wi-Fi" on one of the buildings, I wanted to believe that the setting was real. Well, the town is real, obviously, but you know what I mean.

I suppose that's all I really want to say about "Lost Lake". It wasn't the ghost story that I expected it to be, and I found the ending very disappointing. Suffice it to say that there's something about witchcraft to "Lost Lake" as well, so it's probably best to classify the movie as a below average "possession from beyond the grave" with slasher clich├ęs and leave it at that.

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