Inspired by Kåre Bergstrøm’s 1958 film Lake of the Dead/De dødes tjern, Lake of Death is a Norwegian horror film written and directed by Nini Bull Robsahm.

Lillian (Iben Akerlie) and her twin brother Bjørn (Patrick Waishe McBride) grew up in a remote cabin as orphans without anything or anyone else to latch onto other than themselves. A year after Lillian left her brother behind, she returns with a group of friends to investigate his disappearance and probable death.

Lillian is still in a fragile state; still greatly affected by Bjorn’s absence. She was encouraged to take this trip by her friend, Gabriel (Jonathan Harboe), who has some experience in psychology and has tagged along to support Lillian. Bernhard (Jakob Schøyen Andersen) sees this trip as an opportunity to capitalize on his supernatural/paranormal/strange occurrences podcast.

Bernhard has this Josh in Midsommar kind of aura about him. His fascinations with ghosts and sociopaths has left him somewhat aloof to what is good, friendly behavior.

Sonja (Sophia Lie) and Harald (Elias Munk) are romantically involved and Sonja is a former swimmer turned useless after an Achilles heel injury destroyed her swimming career. The duo literally has no development past those two characteristics.

What Lake of Death teases is far more interesting than what we receive on-screen. At the beginning of the film, Bjørn questions whether we have alternate versions of ourselves living on the other side of our reflection.

When Lillian and her friends first arrive at the lake, Bernhard talks about a man having Stendhal Syndrome; the idea that art could be so beautiful that it completely entrances you and makes you lose touch with reality. Could someone have Stendhal Syndrome with something like gorgeous and natural surroundings?

Iben Akerlie as Lillian.

Lake of Death falls victim to using entirely too much homage when it isn’t entirely necessary. The film references a variety of classic and beloved horror films such as A Nightmare on Elm Street, Misery, Evil Dead, and Cabin Fever.

The concept isn’t entirely original either with a cabin in the woods and no civilization around for miles being obvious bait for something dreadful. The dog, Totto, acts strangely throughout the film and Lake of Death has a ton of hokey jump scares and fake outs while attempting to startle the audience.

You never quite grasp what the black, sludge-like water is. It does its job letting the audience know that things aren’t right and that maybe Lillian isn’t either. But is it an element that actually exists or is it purely metaphorical? The loss of Bjørn has rattled Lillian down to her very core, so it could be a psychological representation of her mental well-being.

Elias Munk as Harald.

Even the scares are mild and limited. Other than a few drops of blood in a car and a whopping body count of two, Lake of Death is extremely light on kills and bloodshed. Robsahm seems to be aiming for this overwhelming sense of tension that is never really capitalized on or fully developed.

Sleepwalking and running through the woods barefoot in slow-motion mostly just feels like delaying the inevitable. If that doesn’t scare you, maybe having a delicious breakfast prepared by an unknown cook might make the hair on your arms stand up. Writing on someone’s face while they sleep will have everyone shaking in their Underoos.

The Verdict

Lake of Death feels like this Norwegian version of Dark Water paired with elements of Friday the 13th and every other secluded, out in the middle of nowhere horror film you can think of. It may leave you with the desire to take a shower afterwards, but is dead in the water as far as satisfying and entertaining horror films go.

Lake of Death is now streaming on Shudder.

Lake of Death Review: As Dull As Black Water
  • Has potential early on.
  • Lame characters.
  • Stereotypical story.
  • Dull scares and too much homage.
3Overall Score
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