Directed by James Cullen Bressack
There’s a scene early on where Shannen Doherty describes lampreys as looking like an “anus with teeth”. In retrospect, that analogy could also describe this film: it may be ass but it does have some bite to it.
We live in strange times. The History Channel is littered with programs about aliens and conspiracies, the Discovery Channel is producing fake documentaries about extinct and mythological creatures, and it seems like nearly every cable channel these days has a show about hunting for Bigfoot.
Animal Planet has now begun doing “Monster Week,” which they clearly hope will reach the illustrious ratings heights of Discovery’s “Shark Week.” Amid nature specials with sensationalistic titles like “Man-Eating Zombie Cats,” this year the network commissioned The Asylum to conjure forth some of that Sharknado magic with a movie entitled Blood Lake: Attack of the Killer Lampreys. If you’re thinking that since this is Animal Planet the movie will be a little more true-to-life or scientifically accurate, just know the opening scene shows a victim onshore being pounced upon by leaping lampreys of varying sizes that somehow drag(!) him clawing at the sand back into the lake.
To be fair, I did learn the following about lampreys from watching this film:
– Lampreys are eel-like fish with toothy sucker mouths that bore into their preys flesh to drink their blood.
– Lampreys are currently an invasive species causing trouble in the Great Lakes region (where this film is set).
– Some species of lamprey can be highly aggressive, even deadly when their food supply runs short (“A desperate lamprey is a dangerous lamprey,” our stalwart hero proclaims).
– Some lampreys have been known to leap 10 feet into the air.
These particular lampreys much have also been amphibious given how much time they spend wriggling around on the dry ground. Since I’m not a marine biologist and this is a b-movie, I’ll just let that one slide.
Since I do believe Blood Lake is the very first film ever made about killer lampreys, there is a freshness to the carnage and a definite yucky vibe watching these slimy little suckers drip out of faucets, slither out of toilets, swarm the swimming pool, and latch on to people like vampiric serpents. A fisherman unintentionally ripping out his own eyeball trying to pry off a biting lamprey and a scene of swimmers fleeing the bloody lake waters coated in the blood of hundreds of fish getting slaughtered in a lamprey feeding frenzy are delightfully gory, surprisingly so for an Animal Planet flick. The ick factor has the potential to get so high it’s a bit of a shame budgetary and made-for-TV restrictions forced more campy yuks than nasty yucks.
Blood Lake never quite reaches the giddy b-movie heights of similar slithery cult favorites Slugs and Squirm in tremendous part to it adhering to the single most stale plot formula in b-cinema today: the separated family desperately trying to reunite amid the looming threat. If you haven’t seen as many of these movies as I have, that may not bother you, but for me it sure sucked the fun out of the film like so many a hungry lamprey. If I had a dollar for every Asylum movie alone I’ve seen trot out this tired trope, I could probably afford to make an Asylum movie.
Shannen Doherty gets top billing despite having the least to do of anyone in the family at the heart of the story. She screams. She sobs. She supports her husband and kids. That’s about it.
She’s married to a Fish & Wildlife officer brought in to prevent an overpopulation of voracious lampreys from spreading into Lake Michigan and potentially the entire Mississippi River system. He does a lot of driving.
The hot teen daughter is off with her new boyfriend finding new ways to get into harm’s way while the producers find new ways to get her into a bikini.
The annoying kid brother manages so many different boneheaded means to put himself in danger you may find yourself actively rooting for his demise. I was.
Christopher Lloyd even cameos as the Mayor, who does precisely what every mayor in every movie of this genre has done since Jaws. Then he takes it up the ass, literally.
As I’ve stated in the past, I don’t expect movies like this to reinvent the wheel, but it would be nice if occasionally they’d at least try rotating the tires. But remember, while fire and poison and electrocution might prove fatal to lampreys, nothing is more satisfying than going all Leatherface on them with a weed whacker.