I’m one of the lucky ones — born in the early ’70s, I was right in the thick of things during that magical horror decade that was the ’80s. Though of course I was too young to go see most of the offerings in the theater, my family were horror fans, and through the magic of HBO and the local video store I usually got to check out all but what my parents thought were the most extreme of scare flicks — I really only recall them saying “no” to two in particular: Cannibal Holocaust and I Spit On Your Grave (I had caught The Last House On The Left at a friend’s house when I was twelve or so, and though it didn’t give me nightmares like say, Halloween did, the questions it prompted me to ask kinda put my folks off of me seeing the more “realistic” horror films at that age). Modern FX and high-end techniques often overshadow those down-and-dirty flicks from that era, but there’s a certain magic to films from those years that not only strikes a chord of nostalgia in us old-timers, but has a broad appeal to newer Fellow Fans as well. This is evident in the popularity of “throwback” and “retro” flicks that are popping up everywhere these days.
One such flick I’ve had the good fortune to check out is Lake Nowhere, a short but sweet homage to those thrilling days of yesteryear, taking the experience an extra step to really transport you back to the early years of the 1980s.
A group of friends arrive at a cabin in the woods (nothing familiar about that! ) and set about getting ready for their weekend of partying. One member, Bonnie, decides to take her dog Fozzie for a little exploring of the surrounding area, a couple compare their wood-chopping abilities, and one young man, Danny, decides to go for a cold swim while the rest set the cabin up for some fun. Bonnie wanders across a strange graveyard and reads a poetic and somewhat sinister inscription on one of the stones, while Danny winds up having some strange encounters in the lake, resulting in his disappearance beneath the water — all of this under the watchful eyes of…well, something. Back at the cabin, there’s the usual retinue of sex, drugs, and rock and roll, chased with plenty of alcohol and carousing…until Danny suddenly returns, seeming caught in the grip of hypothermia and declaring in a shuddering whisper “I felt hands all over me.” Sobering quickly, the group tries to make him comfortable, and eventually head off to get some rest — a rest that’s disturbed when Bonnie awakens to find Danny munching on the carcass of poor Fozzie! Chaos ensues, and twists and turns abound as the group tries to escape the cabin, their now insane friend, and something…else that’s stalking them in their isolation…
Out of the box, I want to take a few lines here to talk about the presentation. This flick comes at you with the grainy previews and commercials that were all too familiar back in the day — fast forwarding then was a bit more problematic than the modern “skip” button, ya know. These were, of course, original bits, but the filmmakers really outdid themselves giving them the look and the feel of something old-school…the washed-out images, synthesizer score, swimmy audio, and occasional tracking error would make anyone think they’d just stepped back in time. This look and patina carries over into the film itself, making the experience all the more surreal — and no detail of those halcyon days of horror-watching was forgotten. For those of you that may not recall what it was like renting videos from the corner mom & pop store (often a back section of a gas station, convenience store, or tanning salon), these smaller places would sometimes re-record films over less popular titles to save a little dough buying new blank cassettes. This would, over time, result in those lovely snippets of video errors when, for one brief moment, a glimpse of another film would impose itself upon your viewing…just long enough for you to wonder if you dreamt it, or were just drunk. This was a sucky but accepted part of the game back then, but was a nice bit of memory lane in this case…well, for me, at least.
All right, enough about the awesome efforts to make this actually appear to be an old ’80s flick, how was it? Well, like a lot of the old knock-offs in those days, it had the requisite group of young people heading to a cabin in the woods, and the boxes were pretty much checked off: the “cool” couple, the kinda weird guy, the edgy dude, the pretty, innocent-looking girl — you get the gist. There’s some set up for partying, during which time there’s some foreshadowing as the old cemetery gets checked out and we witness the someone or something watching the guy taking his dip in the lake. At the party, there’s the expected drinking, pot-smoking, and casual sex — stuff we’ve all seen before, true, and all of it scripted, shot, and acted in a way that perfectly apes the source material. The story does mix some elements that I didn’t exactly see coming, and stands on it’s own amongst those it emulates, but it still falls into territory that we’re not exactly unfamiliar with — however, I don’t think the goal was to create something totally new that was gonna blow our collective socks off. These guys wanted to take us back to a time when things were simpler, a time when horror was king — and in my case, they succeeded. From the first crackles and slurred audio on the black screen, I felt like a thirteen-year-old sitting on the print couch again, gazing expectantly at the old Zenith floor-model, the whirring of the VCR as it kicked into gear promising entertainment — and for me, Lake Nowhere delivered.
It won’t, of course, appeal to everyone. Although is has some good (again, ’80s era-quality) effects, music, and narrative style, a lot of folks out there won’t dig it — oddly enough for those very reasons. However, if you’re an old fogey like me who remembers the time, or in general a fan of ’80s horror, you should most certainly give this one a shot. With a total runtime of just under an hour, I feel like the filmmakers knew it was a horse they couldn’t ride too long, and gave us a memorable time to re-whet our appetites for what has gone before — so what do you have to lose?
Eight cents back from a dime,
BRINKvision will be releasing Lake Nowhere in an exclusive Blu-ray/DVD combo and on VOD August the 16th.