Ernesto is looking for the subject of his next book. He believes he has found it when a series a ghastly murders occur, multiple beheadings in the area. What is strange about them is that the bodies are drained of their blood before the heads were seperated. When pages of Ernesto’s last book show up in ashes by the latest victim he makes contact with retired police officer Jeremias who investigated and caught the Vampire of the Lake, another mass murderer, back in the 70s. But are the killing sprees connected? Could it even be the same killer, risen from the dead?
Before we get into what our concerns are with Carl Zitelmann’s debut film, an adaptation of a novel by Norberto Jose Oliver we want to talk about some positive things from The Lake Vampire.
It may not be a consistently visually powerful film but photographically there are some good things going on in Zitelmann’s film. To either Zitelmann or Oliver’s credit one of both of them moved Vampirism out of the mythical world and into the real one. By grounding the act of drinking blood in the real world the normal disassociation a viewer can make of blood drinking in a supernatural vampire flick is harder to do here. There is a particular flashback scene of a ‘vampire’ and his young ward later in the film that is the most unsettling scene of the entire film for its brash intimacy.
Unfortunately for most of the film what makes up most of the film is an ongoing collection of flashbacks through Jeremias’ career and conversations between the the two men. It is more like Interview *about* a Vampire. We do not get a lot of Vampirism in the film, touches here and there that remind us what Ernesto and Jeremias go on and on about.
Gore is kept to a minimum and scenes meant to horrify and terrorize fail to do so. Zitelmann tries to leave all his horror to the strengths of our imagination but there is not a lot whole lot going on in between that keeps us cognitively engaged and ready to fire up when called upon.
Some of the supporting cast is also a bit rigid and flat in their delivery, along with some suspect blocking and staging of some scenes.
What is largely missing from The Lake Vampire is intention; from Zitelmann or his main characters. For Zitelmann it is unclear what he is trying to do in his film. Is it trying to thrill us? Is it trying to scare us? The story plods on, with conversations between characters really leading us nowhere. It is all meant to build up to scant moments of slight terror in the final act that never accomplish what we think Zitelmann hoped they would do.
There are the mysteries surrounding The Lake Vampire and the killers but Ernesto never seems particularly driven towards the film’s conclusion by the stories that Jeremias tells him and his own discovery near the end of the film. You do not see any reason for Ernesto to make the ultimate choice that he has made because there is no perceived connection that he makes to the stories and the revelations at the end. Nowhere does he appear to adopt the same desires as the killers have in the film; what drives them to drink their victim's blood.
His girlfriend, the reason for his failed marriage we find out about at the beginning, is just casually brushed aside marking a horribly missed opportunity there to really challenge or even create Ernesto’s conviction. Though he appears disgusted and revolted by what he finds out about the killer throughout the story of the film there is nothing there to suggest he is going to make the decision he does at the very end.
But then. He is. He is just suddenly... someone else. That is what is most frustrating above all is that there is no clear motivators for characters’ rash decisions by the end of the film. A clearer presentation of motivators and impulses on behalf of his central character by Zitelmann would have made The Lake Vampire the least bit satisfying.
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