Film Score: Bentley Michaels Cinematography: Jeffrey Schneider
Starring: Geno Romo, Heather Wakehouse, Michael Gonzalez and Benjamin Farmer
Lake Noir. Low-budget, independent horror films are on a long list of things I don’t spend time watching at all. In the first place they’re too easy, meaning that most directors think that they can get more of an audience for a horror film than a straight drama, and that it will be easy to write and film. But there is an art to horror every bit as much as there is for comedy--or drama, for that matter. And while the initial audience might be larger the word of mouth is a killer, especially since the advent of the Internet. That said, however, two of the most impressive films I have ever seen are The Falls and The Falls: Testament of Love by writer-director Jon Garcia. And one of the brilliant stars in those two films is Benjamin Farmer. So in seeking out other things he has appeared in I wound up taking a look at this film by another Portland director, Jeffrey Schneider. The story harkens back to the camp-like atmosphere of the original Friday the 13th, and the host of imitators that came in the wake of the success of that film. For using a hand-held digital video camera the cinematography by Schneider is pretty good, but that’s about the only thing that is. The tagline for the film is, “Nothing good happens at this lake,” and unfortunately that would include Schneider’s movie.
The story, if you can even call it that, begins with Michael Gonzalez being beaten by Benjamin Farmer with a baseball bat and dumped into the lake while his girlfriend is raped by one of Farmer’s buddies. Flash forward and virgin Heather Wakehouse wants to go to the lake for the weekend with her boyfriend, Geno Romo, and some mutual friends. Her mom says no and so she lies and says she’s going to a girlfriend’s house, then jumps into Romo’s truck and they’re off to pick up their friends along the way. In another truck are four other late teens who stop off at a gas station to fill up and are told by crazy old man Bob Olin the story of Gonzalez, who enacted revenge on his abusers by killing them as well as everyone else who stays up at the lake at night. But the kids ignore the warning, pitch their tents in the woods near the lake and proceed to get drunk and have sex with each other. Everyone that is except Romo, who becomes increasingly frustrated with Wakehouse’s abstinence the more he drinks. Finally, as night falls, Gonzalez emerges from the swampy lake and begins working his way through the copulating couples just like every other slasher film you’ve ever seen.
Actually, that’s not quite right. Most other slasher films are at least somewhat inventive. Unfortunately Abel Martinez Jr.’s screenplay is absolutely pointless. The dialogue he has the actors speaking is the most inane I think I’ve ever heard in a film. I’m sure he was striving for something like “realism” but simply comes off as unimaginative in the extreme. And so are the killings. In most of them, you don’t even see anything happening. When Marzell Sampson is killed there is no blood at all, and the audience doesn’t even see what happens to the girl he’s having sex with. And when Calvin Morie McCarthy is beheaded it takes a few moments to realize that the mannequin head rolling in the dirt is supposed to be his. There’s not much gore to speak of, not much sex to speak of, and not much story to speak of. The acting, not surprisingly, is fairly poor as well. Geno Romo probably would have been the best of the lot had he had a decent script and some kind of direction. And while Benjamin Farmer is a brilliant actor--and the reason I watched the film in the first place--you wouldn’t know it as he is really wasted in a tiny role. Michael Gonzalez looks like a cross between Tor Johnson and Santo and, while he is fine as the killer, it probably would have been better to have someone else play the young boyfriend who is left for dead. Lake Noir is a bad movie, but then it was always going to be.