In 1960, four teenagers were stabbed to death while on a camping trip in Finland. The murderer was never apprehended. In Lake Bodom, a horror thriller from director Taneli Mustonen, two high school boys decide to take two of their female classmates into the woods to reenact the possible scenarios that might have led to the infamous murders.
Scantily-clad women camping in the woods where an infamous massacre took place? Right now, you think you know just how this story is going to end. One of the many pleasures of this little gem is that you would be wrong. Lake Bodom consistently zigs when you expect it to zag. The film counts on the fact that its audience knows the conventions of the slasher-in-the-woods genre and then subverts those expectations to great effect.
The film throws in several jaw-dropping twists so effectively that (veteran horror fan that I am) I never saw coming. And they aren’t twists of the ludicrous variety. Lake Bodom has a wonderful cinematic sleight of hand to it, leaving you thinking you should have seen the twist coming before the reveal. In other words, it doesn’t cheat its audience.
Lake Bodom is one of the most technically accomplished horror films that I’ve seen in years. From the beautiful cinematography to the unsettling score to its flawless editing, the film flashes the kind of technical chops that are rarely seen in this genre. The geography of the setting is perfectly realized, and the action is never distorted by choppy editing. There are a couple of cheap jump scares generated by goosing the volume of the score at just the right moment, but I’ll forgive those moments.
I’ve never been a big fan of the brutal “torture porn” school of horror (Hostel, The Green Inferno). I prefer my scares to be fun, not sadistic. As the film reaches it’s climax, Lake Bodom treads perilously close to my personal line of good and bad taste in horror, but manages not to cross it.
Much is made of “grades” when it comes to reviews. I can hear some readers right now saying, “So you think this film is better than an Oscar-nominated documentary like I Am Not Your Negro?” Uh, no. I’m saying, that within its given genre, Lake Bodom is a superior piece of filmmaking and should not be missed by horror fans.
The Movie Isle
Scott Phillips holds a degree in print journalism from the University of Georgia and is currently a member of the Georgia Film Critics Association (GAFCA). In addition to his role as a correspondent for Timed Edition, Scott serves as the Executive Editor and Senior Writer for themovieisle.com. From 2013 through 2017, he reviewed films for filmdispenser.com. Along with his duties as a critic, Scott serves as the Content Programmer for the Way Down Film Festival held in Columbus, Georgia every fall.