The slasher genre is injected with some fresh ideas in Taneli Mustonen’s Lake Bodom. Inspired by the real life Lake Bodom murders from 1960, the film tells the story of a group of friends who go camping at the lake to do a reconstruction of the brutal slayings. This being a horror film, it’s inevitable that things are about to go south but what is unexpected is the twists along the way.
Mustonen has weaved separate stories into his narrative. There is the straight up slasher, the teen drama and a more cerebral horror that puts investment in the killer. Although it seems a little jarring while watching, by the film’s climax the events are sown together in a way that stays with you. This isn’t a forgettable horror film, instead it leaves you with much to think about with a chilling simplicity.
Even if some will sneer that the twists are predictable they’re viciously effective including a beautiful bait and switch that keeps the genre fresh. It does unleash the usual tropes and clichés to be expected but they complement the script rather than make it tiresome. Unfortunately the film does begin to drag in the middle of the first act. The backstory and tension is brilliantly built but too much time is spent on the groundwork that you’re willing a death scene to occur to kick things up a gear.
The small cast, mainly made up of Mimosa Willamo, Nelly Hirst-Gee, Santeri Helinheimo and Mikael Gabriel, excel in their roles. They add more gravitas to their already well written characters, fleshing out their flaws and insecurities giving us something to invest in and by extension care for. They aren’t merely cannon fodder for an evil villain.
The body count is kept to a minimum and although the deaths are violent and bloody they aren’t gratuitous. The viciousness of the attacks are more effective due to their infrequency. Mustonen isn’t tempted by schlock campy horror, he’s looking to frighten audiences, he doesn’t want them laughing and applauding a kill.
Lake Bodom takes time to warm up and it isn’t until the third act that it starts to truly grip you. Despite this the film is best appreciated once the credits have long finished and you’ve had time to digest on what you’ve seen. Original and clever yet simplistic in its storytelling. A well-constructed horror that leaves its mark.
Lake Bodom will be streaming on AMC Network’s horror streaming service Shudder from May the 18th.