For many of us who have loved slashers for most of our lives, the idea of a ‘retro slasher’ these days is kind of dread-inducing. After all, when was the last truly great, modern slasher? How many times have we gotten our hopes up for the resurgence of this sub-genre, only to have them spectacularly dashed by pot-farmer Jason or Mick Thomson-esque Michael Myers?
As somebody who doesn’t get the whole VHS revival either (they rot, the quality sucks, there are no extras), aside from the wonderful box art, Lake Nowhere presents even more of a stumbling block. Essentially a short (it clocks in at less than an hour), which is purposely shot VHS-style à la the titular anthology series, it’s something of an anomaly.
The flick follows a group of friends who, at a lakeside cabin in the woods (naturally), find themselves in the clutches of the very appropriately-named Masked Maniac. Murderous mayhem ensues as they fight to survive the night. There are zombies, intertwined with the requisite slasher nods, and it all culminates in a pretty awe-inspiring, bonkers climax. That’s about it.
Lake Nowhere kicks off with classic, VHS-style trailers. Considering it’s not even an hour long, it’s kind of a weird choice but it fits with the general theme. And, for what it’s worth, the fake movies being advertised therein are pretty enticing prospects on their own merits. Harvest Man, in particular, looks very promising indeed.
The purposefully shoddy VHS quality isn’t as annoying as one would imagine either, and it adds to the super old-school vibe. There’s plenty of breasts and blood. And references to Friday The 13th, Halloween, etc. abound. But the zombie element stops the movie from being a straight slasher–arguably to its detriment.
It’s kind of a shame, because the Masked Maniac is a formidable villain, even if his mask looks as though it’s made out of tree bark and he doesn’t actually do all that much. His closest comparison is probably Jason, particularly given the style of his kills, but his creepy, red-rimmed eyes elevate the look above the typical masked killer.
The cast are all suitably up for it, and their characters react accordingly (trying to get away, hitting the Maniac with a car), so Lake Nowhere doesn’t ever feel like too much of a re-tread of what’s come before. The obvious Final Girl is actually one of the first to go, which chimes well with the movie’s old-school aesthetic, but modern thinking.
Naturally, the SFX are enjoyably shoddy too; a decapitation, in particular, charming in its rubbishness. No camera tricks are used to sand the edges, either, and the movie is littered with memorable shots that hint at what this crew could do with a proper budget and some more time. The final moments are especially good, too, and bravely different.
As it stands, and considering it was reportedly shot over just six days, Lake Nowhere is a reasonably impressive achievement and a great calling card for those involved–especially cinematographer Jennifer Leavitt, who gives the flick its gritty, homemade feel without compromising on quality.
Slasher nerds may be slightly disappointed to learn it doesn’t quite reinvent the wheel. It actually calls to mind Michael Hall’s VHS-styled Kids Get Dead movies, only it’s not quite as innovative, or daring.
Still, in these slasher-parched times, it’s nice to see a movie that can both pay homage and forge its own bloody path. Lake Nowhere may only get 51 minutes to make its mark, but it leaves a lasting impression.
Catch Lake Nowhere on DVD/BD and VOD from August 16th
WICKED RATING: 5/10
Director(s): Christopher Phelps, Maxim Van Scoy
Writer(s): Christopher Phelps, Ryan Scott Fitzgerald, Stephen Phelps
Stars: Laura Hajek, Wray Villanova, Nathan Andrew Wright, Oscar Allen
Studio/ Production Co: Ravacon Collective
Release date: August 16th, 2016
Length: 51 minutes