Sitges 2016 Review: LAKE BODOM Twists A Few Too Many Times
Horror films often retread old tropes and themes; sometimes this is paired with a new perspective or aesthetic changes that can make these tropes seem fresh. Other times, some of these films can just seem tired. Taneli Mustonen's Lake Bodom mostly falls into the latter category; this 'teenagers in the woods with a serial killer' story uses contemporary context of social media, young people's ready access to images, and the effect it has on the victims of rumour to surprising effect. Unfortunately, the story throws so many last-minute twists at the viewer that the story's effect wanes.
Several years ago, Lake Bodom was the scene of an infamous and violent crime, and has since been shunned by locals. But teenage boys Atte and Elias want to recreate the scene, and maybe score with fellow students Ida (Nelly Hirst-Gee) and Nora (Mimosa Willamo). They take a secret trip to the secluded place, but all four of them get more than they bargained for when it seems the uncaught killer might still be at large.
Ida is suffering because some nude photos of her have allegedly been circulating around the school (thanks to rapid exhcange via social media). Everyone claims to have seen them, and she is labelled a slut by both her schoolmates and her father. Mustonen and co-screenwriter then parlay this to the scenario (in a similar manner to All the Boys Love Mandy Lane); so instead of oversexed teenagers, we have a smaller group, and a setting of complete isolation and low lighting that reflects Ida's (presumed) state of mind. Atte and Elias might seem, at first, to have sex and scaring the girls into sex on their minds, but even their presentation is somewhat more thoughtful and meditative; these boys are just as confused as the girls on how to present themselves, no matter how they might bluster.
Mustonen parlays that into a more European art house feel (at least for the first half of the film). It's much more about the quite moments. All this changes with the first twist, when the girls' sinister plan is revealed and they try to get away with murder. This first twist might not be entirely surprising, but it is cleverly executed, and watching the girls struggle to make sure all trace of them and the boys is gone provides some good white-knuckle moments. However, it seems just this one twist wasn't enough, and by the time the last quarter of the film comes around, there are, perhaps not too mant twists to keep track of, but too many to reasonably process, and it feels more like the writers just couldn't decide on what was a more interesting conclusion.
While certainly not lacking in production or acting quality, what begins as a better-than-average, somber and moody look at teenage angst and fear falls into the trap of trying to be far more clever and surprising than it needs to be (which is odd given its 85 minute running time). Less should have been more with this story.