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First Look Review - THE LAKE ON CLINTON ROAD

A weekend trip turns sour for a group of teens.


Review by Benjamin Poole

Directed by: DeShon Hardy

Starring: India Autry, Aram Bauman, Alan Bendich, Anthony Grant, Tina Krause



"Of its cast, The Lake on Clinton Road’s most obnoxious character is a boor called Jaime. Never has a character been a more apt ambassador for the film that they feature in."


To start-up filmmakers, the horror film must seem like an easy entry point. Making a comedy demands detailed script work, along with actors with at least enough skill to deliver lines with deft comic timing. The action genre requires choreography, and the relative experience, or flair, to plan, block and realise sequences of kinetic feats. But with horror, you get a dark room and some weird masks, and you’re half way there, right? It’s far easier to sneak up behind someone and go ‘BOO!’ really loudly in order to make then jump than it is to tell them a joke and make them laugh, after all. And as perhaps the most stylised genre of cinema, horror offers an already established and easily replicated set of conventions to draw from, which (unlike, say, the other-worldly demands of Sci-Fi) work at pretty much any location, but especially in easily accessible, every day settings. So horror dominates indie cinema, and, every once in a while, the stars align and a horror film is created that thrives within the genre and ultimately develops it, setting new standards and redefining the agenda. Mostly, though, the genre produces films that don’t especially do anything new with the framework, but still colour between the lines with due care, attention and passion, and this is fine too. But, on occasion, a film which simply throws a few badly managed BOOs, some speeded up film and murky lighting in with its already stodgy mix of bad acting and lazy plotting, will declare itself horror by the simple virtue of leaning on the genre’s iconography and its former glories. These are films that neither continue or advance the genre, but detract from, and diminish the horror film’s impact. If I said that The Lake on Clinton Road features a group of hot teens out for a weekend of drunken revelry and a plot that involves possession, ghost kids and some sort of weird legend surrounding the eponymous bay of water, can you guess what pedigree of horror film it could be?
An extended EDM montage at the start of The Lake on Clinton Road shows our teen bunch driving along the Jersey Shore, all the while drinking, singing, smacking each other’s bottoms and snogging, leaving us in no doubt that these guys are well and truly on the banter bus. This montage lasts for about two minutes, and then stops to allow the gang out of their people carrier, so they can have another montaged dance on the side of the road (‘aw aw aw aw awww yeah!’), and then they get back in the car for another montage, this one suddenly and inexplicably sadder, with mournful music and elegiac shots of the sun setting. But don’t worry party people, because 10 minutes later there’s a montage of the crazy kids again, this time getting pissed and dancing around a bonfire. You’re never far from a montage in The Lake on Clinton Road - usually of one of the girls showing off their body in the most gratuitous manner possible; one works out and pours water over her head, necessitating that she takes her tee shirt off to wring it (as you do), and, similarly, in the film’s most weird-o sequence, some mad brass music occurs on the score as another girl does a strip tease. If these moments had narrative purpose then they may have been half way to comprehensible, say if the tee shirt girl later had cause to use her well-honed abs to athletically escape a ghoulie in some sort of chase, but no, the whole point of these sequences is simply to parade the female form: the girl who strips eventually jumps at something barely seen off camera and says something like, ‘baby, I think something just touched me’, and the scene just… ends.
The acting is similarly uneven; there’s a strange tendency throughout The Lake on Clinton Road for characters to overreact to the most mundane events; in the midst of the bonfire bash, one of the girls wanders into the (very shallow) lake, and her boyfriend goes berserk on her - so much for the banter bus. Later, when things go south and flight becomes a viable option, when one character says he hasn’t got the car keys on his person, another screams ‘YOU AIN’T GOT THE FUCKING KEYS MAN?!?!’ (relax mate, they’re probably in his other jeans). And yet, when that same character’s girlfriend goes missing, he is completely chill, and, on his way to bed alone, he holds up his two hands and leers ‘see these two? They my girlfriends tonight. We gonna have a little threesome’! It is quite incredible. But this disproportion extends to the plotting too, wherein one of the characters impossibly finds a photograph of herself in the house, which is then promptly forgotten about within moments, as is the girl who goes missing, and as is any ultimate responsibility towards fully explaining the mystery behind the spectral kid who keeps popping up. Admittedly, there is one really well managed cattle prod scare involving this little so and so, but this moment stands alone in a film that is less a horror, and more a weekend away with the world’s most unappealing youngsters.
Of its cast, The Lake on Clinton Road’s most obnoxious character is a boor called Jaime. Jaime is crude and sexist. He constantly boasts about his shortcomings (as a ‘chubby guy’) as if not trying is something to be proud of. He is a character that has no consequence whatsoever where the plot is concerned. And, most egregiously, has an annoying and almost completely un-scary habit of sneaking up on people and trying to make them jump. Jamie probably thought that the weekend at the lake would be a relaxing time of it, but it turned out to be not so easy after all. In fact, it turned out to be pretty difficult, indeed. Never has a character been a more apt ambassador for the film that they feature in.




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