PLOT: Vacationing youths are stalked by a supernatural slasher in this film, which is presented as though you're watching a battered old VHS recording.
REVIEW: Directors Christopher Phelps and Maxim Van Scoy were aiming their film LAKE NOWHERE at a very specific audience - viewers who have a deep appreciation and nostalgia for low budget horror movies of the late '70s and early '80s, and who are either still collecting VHS tapes to this day or have memories of recording movies onto tape. Although the copyright notice on the feature presentation is dated MMXIII, it looks like it could have been made in MCMLXXXIII, and Phelps and Van Scoy have endeavored to make it look like you're watching it on VHS - and not just a rental copy, but a rental copy that has been dubbed onto another video cassette through VCR to VCR recording. Every once in a while, the picture will cut out and we'll see glimpses of things that had been recorded onto this tape previously.
The picture quality of this recording is far from pristine. In addition to the evidence that the tape had been used before, we're also clearly a couple generations of degradation away from that original copy. The image is kind of murky and there are some tracking issues. You may be watching LAKE NOWHERE on DVD, Blu-ray, or VOD, but you'll feel like you've been taken back a couple decades to discover a lost slasher on bootleg VHS.
Going all the way with the attempt to recreate the experience of watching (a recording of) a rental VHS, LAKE NOWHERE starts off with a fantastic retro beer commercial and a couple of faux trailers. The trailer for a giallo called WHEN THE RIVER RUNS RED is quick, beautiful, and bloody, while the trailer for the "nature run amok" horrors of HARVEST MAN went on a little long for my liking, but they're both convincingly old school.
Then the LAKE NOWHERE movie itself begins, and at first it seems to be telling a very familiar story. A group of young friends on vacation arrive at a lakeside cabin in the woods and get up to shenanigans that involve drinking and disrobing, then their good times are ruined by the arrival of a blade-wielding slasher. While fans of straightforward slashers will be entertained by some of the scenes here, there's also a little something different going on. There's a supernatural twist, which sort of makes it feel like there's some EVIL DEAD mixed into this FRIDAY THE 13TH knock-off. LAKE NOWHERE has a unique and deep layer of weirdness that sets it apart from many of the films in the 1980s slasher boom that it's looking back on fondly.
Phelps and Van Scoy did an excellent job recreating the look of the era of filmmaking they're emulating, and really did capture the feeling of watching a cheap '80s slasher on VHS. As far as I'm concerned, loving homages like this are a wonderful thing, and what made me enjoy LAKE NOWHERE more than many of the other retro-style movies that have come out in recent years is the fact that they didn't go down the parody path. Often I'll dig the look of retro-style movies but I'll be put off by the fact that it's all being played as a joke. Phelps and Van Scoy are certainly having fun with this concept, but the slasher they made within it is played rather straight. That's what I want from movies like this, I want something that is aspiring to join the ranks of the classic '80s slashers, not something that's winking at the audience while looking like an '80s slasher.
My main issue with LAKE NOWHERE is that it's not long enough. With an overall running time of 50 minutes, it only dedicates about 44 of those minutes to the "LAKE NOWHERE" of it all, and the story and characters definitely could have been fleshed out a bit more to make it even more satisfying. I would have been happy to watch this messed up VHS recording for another 30 minutes.
LAKE NOWHERE is short, but it's fun while it lasts. The film is available now and can be ordered on DVD and Blu-ray through Amazon.