Lake Bodom (2016) [REVIEW] [SXSW ’17]

My first exposure to “Lake Bodom” was hearing about the Finnish death metal band Children of Bodom, who took their name from an incident in 1960 where four teenagers were murdered while visiting the lake, with no suspect or motive ever discovered. See, these musicians wanted their name to feel spooky, so that’s where the name came from. The film, Lake Bodom, clearly also wanted to capitalize on the “true story” that surrounds the lake, but ultimately had little to do with the true events that took place 50 years ago. In the vein of super-stylish slashers High Tension and Cub, the film looks pretty incredible, but its convoluted plot and tenuous connection to actual events prevented it from being a solid slasher.

Never have a ketchup fight in the woods!

Two horny boys want to kiss two girls, so the boys invite the girls out to Lake Bodom for some spooky adventures. One of the girls must sneak out of the house because she has been grounded ever since nude photos of her began circulating around the school, despite those photos being rooted in her getting roofied and stripped. Anyway, these four are at this lake and spooky things start happening, like the feeling of being watched, weird noises, and outright attacks. It turns out, these boys weren’t the only ones who had nefarious plans for their time at the lake and these teens’ worst nightmares are just getting started.

I look forward to the American remake where that kid in the middle is played by a Culkin.

Here’s the thing about horror movies based on true events: they’re wonky as hell. If a horror movie is based on supernatural occurrences, there’s some wiggle room because most of those events can’t be proven or debunked. When it comes to slashers based on real murders, like Wolf Creek or The Town That Dreaded Sundown, the films feel more like they’re cashing in on a tragedy than anything else. Horror films, like most films, are typically a means of escapism, so if a movie is too true to real-life events, it’s difficult to detach from the realities of the tragedies. If the film isn’t a faithful to those incidents, you wonder why the film claimed to be based on reality in the first place. Lake Bodom is a case of the latter, where American audiences who are probably unfamiliar with the famous murders won’t connect much with the well-known story, but Finnish audiences might be more intrigued.

“Yeah, that’s right, I know you were drugged and sexually assaulted, but you’re also going to be grounded because you brought it on yourself by being alive!”

Reliance on true events aside, the movie is still confusing as hell. In the second act, there’s (what feels like) a ten-minute explanation for how the nude photos of the girl came into being, which comes with the reveal that the photos have almost nothing to do with the plot as a whole or the events that transpired. In the middle of the sequence, I thought, “Wow, these photos are definitely going to tie directly into the film!” and I was left perplexed. Admittedly, I can’t fault the filmmakers for trying to give their film more exposition than necessary as opposed to not having enough plot, but for this type of slasher, there’s still a few too many narrative threads that didn’t need to be followed. Die-hard slasher fans might have more fun with the film, which is gorgeous to look at, and it features a very compelling tow truck sequence, but would have been more successful with two or three fewer plotlines and had just been titled “Scary Pond.”

Wolfman Moon Scale

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