Saturday, 11 July 2020

Lake Artifact (2019) - Horror Film Review

Bruce Wemple's Lake Artifact is a time loop movie that due to the subject matter never takes itself too seriously. It seems Wemple, who both wrote and directed this, has a thing for time based themes as his back catalogue features such films as Mia and the Vase and Altered Hours which both dabbled in time travel. I love time loops and the many inventive ideas they bring with it and so it was a joy to discover this comedy horror used the concept heavily.

Five friends have gone away for the weekend to a cabin by the shores of Lake Paradox. The group, who include among them Tommy (Thomas Brazzle - Monstrous; an upcoming horror also from Wemple), Kip (Chris Cimperman), Grace (Catharine Daddario - also Monstrous), and Megan (Anna Shields - Monstrous, Mia and the Vase) run into car trouble, but are saved by a mysterious hitchhiker, Thomas (Dylan Grunn - you guessed it, Monstrous). As thanks they invite him to join them for a night of partying. Things seem to be going well until the next day. Kip vanishes after heading out to pick up more booze, the group discovers bizarre photographs of themselves by the lake, but ones which they all have no memory of taking, and they discover there is someone else in the area secretly watching them. This is just the start of the madness as they begin to realise they are stuck in some sort of time loop, and that to break the loop there can only be one of them left alive...

The idea behind this was brilliant, but its execution not so much. The core rules surrounding the loop are mainly revealed by a seemingly unrelated sub plot that takes the form of a series of interviews. These interviews are inter-cut throughout the movie, a local historian, as well as a member of a religious sect are the main people being questioned. It is in these moments that the history of the lake and of the house itself is revealed. Centring mainly on a cult that resided in the area in the 1950's, and a writer from the 1970's who built the house, but later killed himself in strange circumstances. These parts were wonderful and added a lot of lore to the events, it was only through these parts that I became to understand the bigger picture. Yet, the characters in the film seemingly get fully on board with all this knowledge without any way for them to have done so. They are stuck in a loop but there is little going on to suggest they could possibly be aware of this, or aware of the fact that only one of them can escape.

The characters are mostly a fun bunch, yet they react rather poorly to the increasing body count. Despite them all being friends they don't really seem to exhibit any distress or shock at people being killed. This only became less of an issue due to the comedic elements to be found. This isn't a laugh a minute comedy horror, the humour instead comes about by the reactions and dialogue the characters share. As things get more desperate people overreact in often amusing ways. The highlight was the character of Tommy who was a very likeable lead. Thomas was another great character, I loved how straight faced and serious Grunn played him. The best scenes was the growing bromance between these two characters. Starting off near hostile to each other there is a friendship that blossoms that felt natural and believable. The rest of the cast don't get as much development to their characters sadly as all the actors here were good ones, regardless they were all handled well and made to seem more than just bland sterotypes.

The horror parts of this revolve around the whole time loop idea. This is put to great use in a couple of key scenes that play around with expectations. I wish more of the mystery had been explored or hinted at. By the films conclusion I had more questions than answers, with there not really being much for the viewer to work with in order to come to their own conclusions for what happened. Bigger use of the central concept would have made for a more satisfying story as well. Moments that suggest time travel, or of having unknowingly experienced similar events previously were few and far between. The soundtrack by the way was pretty good, it felt like it belonged with the film.

Lake Artifact was so very nearly a great film for me. I love time loops anyway, but the unexpected surreal humour added rather than detracted from the film. I would have preferred slightly more clues, and perhaps more of a nefarious vibe, but the often straight faced humour from the cast gave this film a warm feel. Lake Artifact is available to watch on Terror TV, if you like this sort of thing then I would say check it out for sure.


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