House By The Lake (2017)
Starring James Callis, Anne Dudek, Natasha Bassett
Directed by Adam Gierasch
Here we go again: another unsuspecting family heading to a nice relaxing getaway, when all hell breaks loose – in this particular endeavor, our unsuspecting family opts to stow away at a…you guessed it a House By The Lake. Wipe your feet, please – we’d hate to track anything in this residence of terror (cue ominous music…or don’t).
Directed by Adam Gierasch, the formula here is simple: a small family with an autistic daughter named Emma makes the jaunt up into the woods with the hopes of reconnecting their dynamic that has become somewhat frayed over the past few years. A seriously overprotective mother at the helm, a father who just wants this whole thing to get smoothed over, and a nanny hired by dear old dad to keep an eye on the little one while mom and pop use this time to bond again – and if you think this would all come out of the chute rosy and glitter-filled, perhaps you should look to a nice Saturday afternoon family channel in which to scratch your “domestic household with issues” itch – this is horror, dammit! Once the clan arrives at the home, it’s painfully obvious that this new change isn’t settling well with the little girl or the helicoptering mother, causing the tot to pull away even further from her parents and begin speaking in private with an imaginary friend – oh, that’s fantastic! So, Mom begins to unravel at the seams, causing a rift with the babysitter, and then little Emma goes missing – way to go Dad…couldn’t have just sprung for a long weekend at Disneyland?
The remainder of the film acts as a sort of whodunit, with more than one suspect that has caused the child to disappear into thin air. The hostility is thick, and the blame game gets increasingly worse as time goes on – but who’s truly to blame for all this? For a low-budgeted film, I was rather impressed with how well the shooting locations successfully captured that feeling of isolation, and the performances as well were decent and convincing to an extent, and even some of the fx had an old-time look and feel. Gierasch’s direction here went heavy on the family problems, which acted as a nice setup for the even more severe issues this little group would be facing – it’s intently constructed that way and it pays off. In the end, I’ve got to admit that I was pleasantly surprised with this one, so don’t let the retreaded title fool you – this one’s definitely worth a look. Only warning I could offer is maybe a little family therapy in the future, instead of another trip to a friggin house in the middle of nowhere – when will they learn?