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Monday, May 15, 2017

LAKE ALICE -- Movie Review by Porfle

I always think I know pretty much what I'm in for when I sit down to watch a horror flick about people vacationing in a secluded cabin who are beset by a ruthless, mysterious, bloodthirsty killer or killers. 

But sometimes, as in the case of LAKE ALICE (2017), the filmmakers pull a fast one on me and employ a secret weapon--skill--in order to get me all nervous, scared, and jumping at shadows all over again.

That's how the main characters themselves will be acting soon enough, but at the beginning they're just a nice group of people--happily married couple Greg (Peter O'Brien, X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE, "Queer As Folk") and Natalie (Laura Niemi, CHASTITY BITES, JOBS), their daughter Sarah (Caroline Tudor, REPARATION), and her likable fiance' Ryan (Brad Schmidt, FIFTY SHADES OF BLACK)--who are spending Christmas at their vacation cabin in the wintry wilds of Wisconsin. 

In a lot of these movies, the characters are so cliched and so irritating (especially the teens or twenty-somethings who are just there to PAR-TAAAY!) that we welcome the unstoppable killer's attack that will lay waste to them in entertainingly bloody fashion. 

Here, however, is the rare case in which writer Stevie Jane Miller and her accomplice, first-time feature director Ben Milliken, use that secret weapon--skill--to write people who act and speak in a natural, realistic, and engaging way (of course, it helps that the cast are so good), so that as we get to know this nice family and their concerns, we begin to dread whatever will eventually happen to them in that cabin out there all by themselves. 

But before that, we meet the people of the small rural community nearby where Sarah grew up, and, wouldn't you know it, damn near all of them are either creepy, scary, mildly unsettling, or just plain odd. 

With Sarah's jealous ex-boyfriend, a couple of unreasonably hostile town cops, an unpredictable and possibly dangerous simpleton, and other characters running around, we can be pretty sure that one of them is going to be the killer while the rest are just red herrings, and half the fun--if you can call it that--of the ensuing carnage will be trying to figure out who's who.

LAKE ALICE takes its time getting to that point, but that's good because by the time bad things start to happen, we're at least emotionally invested enough to care.  That way, the deaths aren't just part of a meaningless "body count" and we aren't giddy at the cool, creative ways that people meet their violent ends. 

Moreover, director Milliken knows how to build suspense, whether it be an all-out stalker-killer attack or just one of those creepy episodes where someone hears a strange noise in the house and thinks there may be someone hiding behind the window curtain. 

Suspense, in fact, is the main element here, so gorehounds, unfortunately, will be disappointed in that regard.  But the sheer nail-biting tension that follows the first nocturnal invasion of the family home and the nagging questions of "who" and "why" should be more than adequate compensation.

As good as it is, I found LAKE ALICE painful to watch for the same reasons that made THE STRANGERS a bit of an endurance test--relatively realistic and likable protagonists, an unreasoningly evil, violent and downright scary killer or killers, and situations that inevitably detour into the dark, irrational logic of nightmares. 

Breaking Glass will release the film on DVD and all major North American TVOD platforms July 18, 2017

Read our original coverage HERE


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