‘The Land of Blue Lakes’ Is The Best Found Footage Movie You Didn’t Watch in 2021

The Land Of Blue Lakes

Found footage has seen an incredible resurgence in the past few years. In 2021 alone, we saw a new V/H/S film, a new entry in the Paranormal Activity franchise, The Medium and Profile. But there were a few found footage films that flew under the radar but deserve their time in the spotlight. One such film is the 2021 found footage folk horror film, The Land of Blue Lakes. It’s also Latvia’s first-ever found footage film.

The Land of the Blue Lakes starts out like most low-budget found footage: a group of friends heads to a secluded location to party and drink too much. Here, more specifically, five friends are going on a kayaking trip in the titular Land of Blue Lakes. It’s essentially a series of lakes connected by small streams that create an intricate system of waterways ready to confuse and disorient unsuspecting travelers. Artur (the film’s director Arturs Latkovskis), a YouTuber filming the trip for his channel, leads the trip, explaining he wants to find a sacrificial stone used by an ancient tribe. So of course that means the group is setting off a doomed venture.

Artur explains that their ancestors lived on these lakes and made regular sacrifices to appease their gods. But when Christian missionaries came to spread the word of God and put an end to what they saw as barbaric practices, those pagan gods were pushed aside. That angered the gods who then brought suffering to the island inhabitants, which then rendered the area almost inhospitable. The sacrificial stone stands as a marker of the past, and a creepy one at that. What awaits them at the stone is an ancient, and rage-filled, evil.

The Land Of Blue Lakes

Everything starts out normally. They kayak, they drink, they shoot the shit, and just generally have a good time. One of the best things about The Land of the Blue Lakes is the chemistry between the group. They all feel like actual friends. None of the dialogue feels forced or staged; it all just feels like organic conversation and ribbing between pals. That authenticity makes the building dread all the more terrifying.

Much of the film’s terror comes at night when the group is asleep, but hints of something watching them start as they sit around the fire. One member of the group goes off to pee, but hurries back with anxiety splashed across his face. He heard footsteps following him in the dark and refuses to accept he was hearing things. From there, that night only gets more terrifying as something films them while they sleep. As the camera pans across each person sleeping, you hope that it’s just one of them being a creep. But once we see all five of them sleeping soundly in their tents, we quickly realize there’s something more sinister behind the camera. It’s the thing of every camper’s nightmares.

The use of the killer behind the camera is always a horrifying found footage technique, much like the killer POV seen in slasher films. We’re put in the shoes of the villain, forced to literally see through their eyes. It forces us to reconcile our subject position as more than just an audience member; we’re active participants in the characters’ destruction. The Land of Blue Lakes taps into the discomfort, as well as the overall horror of realizing someone is watching these unsuspecting travelers.

From there, there’s a lull in the outright horror, which really only comes back in the film’s final moments. However, with the folk horror elements, every moment they spend on the water feels full of tension. They see locals watching them from the shore and strange antlered figures watching them through the reeds. Every route they take is either blocked or nigh impossible to cross. It feels like nature is plotting against them, pushing them towards a specific goal. There’s almost a feeling of predestination.

The Land Of Blue Lakes

Horror aside, it’s a beautiful film that, even from a kayak, captures the beauty of the lakes. It’s a sprawling, seemingly never-ending wild landscape punctuated with small islands and shallow marshlands. The group is surrounded on all sides by nature, which wants to confound them at every turn. Even consulting GPS doesn’t help as they lose service and are only left with their intuition.

The Land of Blue Lakes may feel slow at times, but that’s part of its charm. If you invest yourself in their situation, even the smallest moments feel sinister. It’s essentially the Latvian response to The Blair Witch Project, which isn’t a bad thing at all. Latkovskis creates an impressive found footage movie that uses identifiable subgenre tropes but adapts them using folklore not often seen on screen. As 2021 comes to a close and you’re catching up on the year’s releases, The Land of Blue Lakes should be on your watchlist. Especially if you’re a sucker for good found footage.

The Land of Blue Lakes is available to watch for free on Tubi.

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