Sam's Lake
directed by Andrew C. Erin
(Lions Gate, 2005)

I've seen plenty of movies worse than this one, but there's no getting around the fact that Sam's Lake isn't a very good movie. It had some potential -- a mad killer running around in the woods intent on killing a bunch of young adults isn't what you'd call original, but you can at least hope for a tad of suspense and a lot of blood and gore; plus, you have a fairly attractive redhead in the lead role, and that's never a bad thing. Alas and alack, though, the movie just doesn't work. The whole thing basically hinges on one crucial scene just over halfway through, and director Andrew C. Erin's efforts to pull it off just fell a little short, a flaw immediately exacerbated within mere seconds by a rather ridiculous moment. Still, everyone involved in the film seemed to try hard; it's pretty bad, but it's not insufferable.

So, anyway, Sam (Fay Masterson), still dealing with the death of her father a year earlier, invites several of her friends for a weekend back home in her family's lakeside cabin. The lake would of course be named Sam's Lake -- her father loved it so much he named her after it. Most of these friends of Sam's have never been out of the big city before, but even they can see that something about the place just isn't right. The locals -- what few of them are to be seen -- are anything but friendly, and every house seems to have a Blair Witch-like cornhusk "doll" hanging somewhere in front of it. Still, the lake itself is quiet and peaceful, and it looks like some fun may be had here after all. Sam's childhood friend, Jesse (William Gregory Lee, who Dark Angel fans will recognize as Max's genetic mutant buddy Zack), is a bit of an odd duck, but he seems to hit it off with Sam's friend Kate (Sandrine Holt).

Then, at the obligatory campfire, Sam is coerced into telling the story of "the house." To make a long story short, this family's "troubled" son escaped from an institution, made his way back home, slaughtered his parents and sister, then disappeared into the woods. Not only was the madman never found, a lot of locals have disappeared over the years, always with a cornhusk doll left in their place. As if this story alone isn't enough to unnerve Sam's friends, it is accompanied by a related "adventure."

Aha, so this is clearly a story about a madman killing young people out in the middle of nowhere, you say. Well, yes and no. This is where the story runs into problems. I'm afraid I just can't buy what the director is selling here. Sadly, the rest of the film is just sort of ludicrous. To top it off, they have to throw in a completely unnecessary final shot that just seemed like pandering and turned me off even further.

Some people might enjoy Sam's Lake, but I think a majority of viewers -- especially horror fans -- will be left jaded at best by the experience. I really wanted to like it, but the story just has too been faults to overcome. Since he was the film's writer as well as director, I have to lay the blame squarely on the shoulders of Erin, but I don't want to come down too hard on the guy since this was his debut feature film. Yes, Sam's Lake is a bad, low-budget horror film, but Erin actually came pretty close to pulling this whole thing off. With a little more experience, he might very well thrill or even scare us at some point in the future.

review by
Daniel Jolley

18 September 2010

Agree? Disagree?
Send us your opinions!

what's new