Suck the nub. Three words have never so easily summed up the tone and theme of a single movie. A film so patently unpleasant that even this jaded writer felt a little unprepared for it. Wicked Lake represents an uncommon occasion for me. See, I don’t have time to fuck around so when I watch something, I usually have a pretty good idea what it’s about and whether or not I’m going to like it. It doesn’t take much to entertain me, either, but I went in to Wicked Lake with no idea what to expect aside from the trailer that I had seen. The trailer suggests a home invasion movie. Four girls play victim to four lunatics and turn the tables, but it’s not as simple as that.
Splatter hounds are going to go nuts for Wicked Lake. It’s the sort of movie that can only happen in the independent horror scene. Just as Hollywood is catching up to what horror fiends have been thrilling to for years, someone has to come along and raise the bar. August Underground this is not, but it has all the splatter that matters. Impalements, arterial spray, heads in microwaves. Just when it looks like the girls are out of people to kill, they add some more characters to the mix and someone winds up with a load of buckshot in the crotch.
Ilene’s path with Caleb crosses in Caleb’s art class where she poses nude. Caleb, a twitchy, nervous weirdo, rushes out of the room after a fantasy nearly gets out of control. Later, he and Ilene meet up again where they walk home together. When she exposes herself to him again, he rushes off back to his house, occupied by his two lunatic brothers, one a calculating psychopath and the other a barely functional moron, as well as their demented war veteran uncle. One look and they’ll seem familiar. The girls, the sort of sexy quartet of women who only exist in exploitation movies are planning a trip out to a cabin for some R&R. Their vacation is interrupted when Caleb and his psyhotic family show up to party and wind up holding the girls captive while threatening to rape them. But there’s something they don’t know about the girls. They harbor a horrible supernatural power and turn the tables on their captors.
Wicked Lake is a movie out of balance. At times it dips its toe into Troma territory by portraying certain characters and grossly inept. Goofy rednecks tug at their crotches, drooling over the girls while waggling their tongues. Crazy old Sir Jim mutters about blowjobs and “the war” from his wheelchair but then the movie will suddenly shift gears and shakes off the humor to reveal a core of sickening sadism. Our villains, Caleb (who spends the majority of the movie hanging from the cabin’s front door, run through with a fire poker) and his family are the sort of broad stroke exploitation villains that deserve everything they get, even when the girls suck Fred’s brain out through a straw. The girl’s however, are sold as the protagonists based solely on their sexuality. However, they perform some of the movie’s sickest acts. So it’s tough to tell who you’re supposed to be rooting for. That is, with the exception of the cop team-up of Jake and Ray. Ray being the young gun while Jake, played by cult fave Tim Thomerson, smokes weed, drinks and does coke. These guys, though completely terrible cops are the best part of the movie even if their scenes seem so far removed from the rest of the movie.
Wicked Lake, though cheap, is probably one of the best examples I can think of short of an Asylum picture to embody the exploitation movie ethic. You can see the themes that they’re emulating in order to sell a movie. The idiot brothers are carbon copies of the Firefly Family from House of 1000 Corpses and the early home invasion scenes remind me of the motel scenes from The Devil’s Rejects. It very much seems to be trying to capture that Rob Zombie horror movie/music video vibe and even goes so far to include a heavy soundtrack overseen by Ministry’s Al Jourgensen who turns in a few tracks, notably some decent covers of Golden Earring’s Radar Love and Bang A Gong by T. Rex. Fans of that Wax Trax industrial legacy will appreciate the inclusion of Revolting Cocks and some unnamed friends of Jourgensen no doubt culled from Ministry side projects.
Unusually, the comedy, when Wicked Lake is striving to make you smile, actually works. It’s extremely bizarre but the most effectively funny moments come from Caleb, played by Marc Senter who comes off as studying every Crispin Glover role ever put to film. Sure, he spends most of the movie impaled on a fire poker and bleeding from a gunshot wound to the crotch but every interaction with the guy is hilarious. He seems genuinely awkward and it makes up one of the movie’s strongest elements.
The girls, on the other hand, are probably the movie’s weakest point and that’s too bad because they’re supposed to be at the center of the picture. Their power is vaguely identified. Maybe they’re witches, maybe they’re vampires, maybe they’re werewolves. I don’t think that it is ever defined. They seem to enjoy eating flesh and brain tissue, though. Mostly, they’re just in the movie to take off their tops, swim naked and make overt lesbian references. For many, this is a strong selling point, but I’m way past that point in my life for a sexploitation angle to draw me to a movie.
Finally, the gore in the movie is over the top and extremely splashy and messy in a very Troma sort of way. The effects are some of the finest to appear in a recent indie movie and the scenes involving the violence are often squirmy, unpleasant affairs where the movie sheds its goofy exterior and becomes mean. These scenes could have used the sense of humor that the rest of the movie has but fans of gore effects will not be let down, particularly in the oral leng t’che scene and brain suck scene. These are crowning moments.
Overall, Wicked Lake lacks focus. It’s a quality low budget entry that celebrates and exploits recent horror entries but suffers from a constant shifting of tone. It’s paced well, features a decent soundtrack and has a great minor role in Tim Thomerson but the stars of the show, the women, are the weakest part of the movie which is unfortunate because they’re the foundation of the movie and are relegated to little more than blood soaked eye candy.
Wicked Lake makes it’s New York City premier on Friday, June 27th at the Pioneer Theater, 155 East Third Street at Avenue A