Director: Ben Milliken
Year of release: 2017
Country of origin: USA
Running time: 75 minutes
DVD/Blu ray: DVD only
Also known as: Lake Alice
Taglines: "Evil lurks beneath the surface" and Their first holiday together, may be their last".
Casting the spotlight on the slasher genre
Story: To celebrate Christmas the Thomas family, mom, dad and daughter Sarah go away to a cabin they own in a small town in rural Wisconsin. Sarah who has been away studying for some time brings along her boyfriend Ryan who is meeting her parents for the first time. Coinciding with their visit to the small town is the news that a local woman has gone missing, presumed kidnapped or even murdered. On top of this there seems to be some hostility towards the visiting Thomas family from the abrasive local sheriff and his hulking deputy. To make matters worse there is underlying tension between the family themselves after Ryan proposes to Sarah during the course of the holiday, news which doesn't seem to sit too well with the father. All the while we someone skulking in the shadows around the property, spying on the family with a video camera. On Christmas night things reach a head with the snooper becoming a lot more than just a peeping tom as the cabin falls under attack.
Good points: After a brief scene early on with a local woman being attacked there is a good forty to forty five minutes or so spent on building up and establishing the characters before the action kicks in again in the last third. By the time the finale rolls around this slow burn approach we see initially pays off a it means we feel more connected to our main characters and invested in them. I guess some people might find this slower more drama based part of the film boring but I appreciate the effort put into build something up before it is torn down later.
The acting though nothing special is of a decent enough standard for such a low budget affair with most of the characters coming across as convincing. Sarah, the mother and to a lesser extent Ryan remain likeable throughout with the rest being interesting from the odd looking town loner Carl to the gruff sheriff Hank. This Hank and his deputy were quite the opposite of likeable but were intriguing, it was just a shame the reasons for their hostility towards the Thomas family were never revealed.
The appearance of the killer is well done with the white balaclava with emphasised eyes and blood smears being quite intimidating. It makes for a good cover for the Lake Alice version though the English release under the Lake Tomahawk name has a less effective piece of cover art. Getting back to the killer I also liked the use of the video camera used to film victims both before and after the mayhem began.
We don't see a great deal of it but what we are shown of the small town is atmospheric and used to good effect in the early parts of the film. What little we see of the wilderness surrounding the cabin is also pretty though they could have showcased it a lot more than they did. Seeing that both titles for the film mention a lake it is strange that we don't actually see a lake at any point during the film.
Several suspects are established early on as to who the killer might be so there is a bit of mystery and guess work involved. Along with the sheriff and deputy we have a creepy ex boyfriend of Sarah's, the loner Carl and the father.
Bad Points: The music in the film isn't very good at all and gives it a cheap bargain basement type feel. On top of this the audio quality on my DVD wasn't very good and there are no subtitle options so I had to turn the volume up really high to make out what was being said. There was also a really embarrassing part where Tyler was singing at the local pub and the audio quality here was beyond terrible. Probably it was because he wasn't really singing and they had to dub the song in somehow but it was a truly awful laughable segment. Just cringeworthy. I also think it was supposed to be Christmas night when this took place so I thought it was slightly unlikely he would even be performing at the pub on that day as they surely wouldn't get much business. Would the pub even be open?
Much like with the music this is very bad for blood. There are pretty much no special effects surrounding the kills so there must have been a very minimal spend from the budget in this area. Most of the kills are bland as well with incidentally the tomahawk of the English title only coming into play once or twice and is underwhelming so I'm not sure why the name was changed to include that over here. Even if it was supposed to be in reference to the actual real life place and not the weapon it still doesn't add up as like I said we don't see the lake at all. Well Lake Alice has the same issue but that at least sounds better in my opinion and is less cheesy. Having said all this though there is one good kill where someone is set on fire.
Once the action kicks off in the final third I thought the film lost its way and went downhill. The budget restrictions became more noticeable and it wasn't very well shot sometimes. By this I mean that on a couple of occasions when characters were running away I initially thought all of them were together only to find later that they had been split up but visually on screen you couldn't really tell that this was the case at the time. I think these parts are supposed to take place in the middle of the night as well but in some scenes when Sarah is in the woods it appears to be more like daylight.
In a similar vein the whole presentation feels a bit weird from a direction point of view with there being quite a few jarring cuts and fades going on that seem out of place and unnatural.
Spoiler ahead here. I wasn't keen on the twist ending with the deputy seen watching with a camera at the end. I just didn't think it was clear enough what they were trying to put across, was there two killers and a separate peeping tom or three killers with the deputy working with the other two? If so which kills did the deputy get involved in? The way they shot it as well it wasn't even clear if it was just the deputy recording himself at the end or if there was supposed to be a fourth person who turned the camera on him.
Verdict: This starts off as an enjoyable if flawed film which sadly looses its way as it nears the climax. There are some redeeming features like the slowburn character development and subsequent tension introduced by the sheriff and marriage proposal. I found it quite atmospheric as well and the killer looks the part even if sadly things do drop off quite dramatically once the action truly starts. Still worth a watch though for slasher fans.
Bodycount (contains major spoilers):
1) Julie: Dragged of while searching for her car keys in the snow. Method of execution unknown.
2) Sarah's dad: Tomahawk is thrown into his back.
3) Carl: Attacked while checking on the cabin, throat cut. Gunshots were also heard around this time thoughh I don't know who was shooting.
4) Ryan: Bludgoned by accident by Sarah after she mistook him for the killer.
5) Sheriff Hank: Tied to a tree, doused in petrol and then set alight.
6) Jane: Killed off camera by Sarah's mom. Shot prsumably, her body is found in the snow by Tyler.
7) Tyler: Shot by Sarah's mom in the neck/collarbone area.