It Came from the Camcorder: Blood Lake (1987)

Pro-tip for all you aspiring amateur filmmakers out there that are contemplating shooting an independent, low-budget horror flick on your phones: don’t short your viewers on the gore.

I’m not saying that one has to make an anatomically-correct splatter fountain like Violent Shit, but the hardest of these SOV horror flicks to watch for this year’s Horrorshow have been the movies devoid of spectacle. If there’s one thing that all these films have in common so far, its problems with their pacing. Whether it’s inexperienced storytelling or a thin screenplay, it takes an experienced shitty movie viewer to not be bored to death by these movies. That makes gore an essential element of their watchability, because it’s the most reliable way to get the audience to pay attention.

Blood Lake comes to us from the great state of Oklahoma. The brainchild of writer, producer, editor, and star Doug Barry, Blood Lake is a slasher flick following the fates of a group of teens who were hoping for a fun weekend at picturesque Cedar Lake (playing itself). But, that was not to be. An unhappy man billed as The Killer (Tiny Frazier), can’t stand to see such wily shenanigans, so he begins to cut them down one by one with his survival knife (it has a compass!).

Before that, though, viewers are subjected to long sequences of Barry and director Tim Boggs padding the running time. There’s the five-minute long opening credit sequence, the waterskiing scene, the drinking game scene…it goes on and on for over half the film before one of the teens has the decency to get murdered. There was a character killed before the opening credits, but that was the last bit of decent storytelling in the flick for a long, long while.

This movie is 82-minutes long, and could have lost 20 of those minutes — maybe even a half hour. At some point in movie history, it was decided that audiences wouldn’t accept movies that clock in at just over an hour or less. The rise of television probably had Blood Lake 1987 movie postersomething to do with that. But, audiences should not be subjected to long stretches of poor filmmaking just to meet some arbitrary standard of movie length. That doesn’t equal value for a viewer.

Which brings us to pro-tip #2. It’s too late to help this flick, but here in the year 2022, when independent filmmakers can make their movies available on subscription streaming services, they no longer have to worry if a movie’s length matches up with the perceived value of a single purchase. Already one can find a plethora of films available on a service like Prime that have running times that are well below the average of a theatrical release. The shackles of runtime are being removed. Embrace that, and stop ruining your film’s pace with stupidly long scenes.

That said, all would have been forgiven if Barry and company would have supplied viewers with buckets and buckets of blood. The potential was there, as proven by one of the death scenes in the movie. However, that was just a tease. Most of the victims exit this film quickly, quietly, and with little effort.

I suppose it’s a waste of time to slam this movie too much. It was filmed on a camcorder over, probably, a single weekend. I do believe there are minimum standards for a horror flick, and this does meet them. I just wish that, when presented with an opportunity to make a film outside the watchful eyes of the censors, Barry and Boggs had seized it.

Blood Lake is a difficult watch. It slips way down the Watchability Index, displacing xXx at #383. There’s nothing particularly meanspirited about the film, unlike many of its neighbors this low on the list. Rather, it’s just dull.

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