Director – Taneli Mustonen
Cast – Nelly Hirst-Gee, Mimosa Willamo, Mikael Gabriel, Santeri Helinheimo Mäntylä, Sami Eerola
Release Year – 2017
Reviewed by John of the Dead
These days I take such great joy in coming across horror films that surprise me. This is especially the case with the slasher sub-genre. Slasher films are known to be predictable, cheesy, and “so bad it’s good” is a phrase used far too often. Sure there are some critically acclaimed slashers out there, like John Carpenter’s Halloween, but in our modern day we see these sub-genre entries written off as just another story you have seen a thousand times. There is some truth to this, as the sub-genre and its limits have resulted in convolution. Thankfully, every so often we get a slasher that delivers a well-crafted story complimented with great execution, and that is the case with Lake Bodom. This Finnish film is a breathe of fresh air for the slasher sub-genre, and a film I recommend to all.
In 1960, four campers enjoying a weekend at Lake Bodom were killed while sleeping in their tents. To this day the killer has not been caught. Fast forward to modern times and Elias, Atte, and their student cohorts Ida and Nora take a road trip to Lake Bodom. Their mission: to re-create the killings…and hopefully hook up in the process. Unfortunately for them, the killer shows up and makes this re-creation all too real.
Sounds like your standard slasher film, doesn’t it? An unsolved event in the past is re-lived when the killer returns. Thankfully, writers Aleksi Hyvarinen and Taneli Mustonen offer much more than what’s on the surface. The story kicks off in generic fashion, and we quickly learn (about 23 minutes in) that the friends are not alone on this solemn lake. The first kill occurs at 10 minutes later, and it was one that left me in shock. The buildup to the kill has you unsure of whether there really is a killer in the vicinity. On top of this, the writers go for the jugular in killing a titular character. Because of this, the buildup to the kill had me thinking “No way. This is going to be a friend playing a joke, or some misdirection.” Nope. This sends our characters into breakdown mode, and that is when things really get interesting. The next kill takes place at the halfway mark (43 minutes) and that is when the first of several twists is revealed. I wish I could go more into this, but that would ruin the experience for you. In fact, I already took away part of the mystique in informing you there is a twist. But how else would I convince the majority of you to give this a watch?. Thankfully, the story is so twisted (get it?) that there is so much more to enjoy. Coming in at only 80 minutes before the credits roll, the remainder of the film is littered with tension.
Director Taneli Mustonen does a fantastic job with his first horror film. To start, the sets and locations used are fantastic. I really enjoy lakeside / wilderness settings for horror films, and Finland provides a beautiful yet unsettling landscape. The atmosphere is gloomy and shadows lurk in every corner. Cinematographer Daniel Lindholm provides a visually appealing experience with tones and hues that catch the eye. Of course, it is the execution of the horror that seals the deal. With only four protagonists you should not expect a lot of kills. Instead, the filmmakers ensure that each kill is effective and reaches its potential. While there are blood and live-action effects I cannot say that this is a gory film. That would seem blasphemous for a slasher flick, yet I found no issue with this thanks to the execution of the kills. As for the killer, I was pleased with the horror they delivered. This is neither a supernatural killer nor a gargantuan one. This is an everyday person who could blend into society, and to some that is scarier than the brutes we know and love.
Overall, Lake Bodom is a great horror film and an engaging slasher that offers more than what we are used to. I recommend this to all.