Studio: The Asylum
Director: James Cullen Bressack
Writer: Anna Rasmussen, Delondra Williams
Producer: David Michael Latt
Stars: Shannen Doherty, Jason Brooks, Christopher Lloyd, Zack Ward, Rachel True, Ciara Hanna, Yar Koosha, Nicholas Adam Clark
Terror spreads throughout a small Michigan lake town when deadly lampreys infest the water system and start attacking humans.
Some of us remember when the M in MTV still meant “Music.” Over time, pop rock videos were gradually supplanted by reality television, game shows, and prank-oriented programming until the music was basically phased out altogether.
It’s amusing to imagine a similar fate befalling Animal Planet. Known for nature-related educational series and annoyingly cute shows about puppies rolling around in wicker baskets, one wonders if scripted movies like “Blood Lake: Attack of the Killer Lampreys” might foreshadow a time when edutainment is a thing of the past, and Animal Planet just broadcasts creature features 24/7 instead.
Probably not if the quality and entertainment value of “Blood Lake” is any indicator. I initially questioned what the decision making process for production company The Asylum might be in choosing which of their monster movies go to SyFy and which ones are better suited for Animal Planet. The answer offered by “Blood Lake” is that Animal Planet gets a neutered family-oriented drama whose screenplay includes the phrase “and they embrace” almost as much as it does the word “lamprey.”
“Blood Lake” follows the usual formula employed by The Asylum whether a story involves a beast on the loose or the threat of Armageddon, which are generally their two go-to themes aside from mockbuster, of course. Jason Brooks plays a blue-collar hero and suburban family man who will stop at nothing to rescue and to reunite with his wife and children when peril looms. Christopher Lloyd is a money-minded bureaucrat downplaying the danger and otherwise blocking the path towards sensibly handling the crisis. There’s a frustrated teen girl to talk back to dad so they can make up later, smart scientists and dumb underlings to handle the exposition, and an assortment of hangers-on for the monsters to feast upon when all of the above gets too dull.
Which is something that happens often. Getting too dull, that is. “Blood Lake: Attack of the Killer Lampreys” sounds a lot more exciting than the movie itself actually is, and that is primarily due to a script so strictly adhering to an inoffensive boilerplate that nothing in the film reads as interesting.
A fair chunk of the movie is spent with employees of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service strolling around lakeshores as they talk about water turbines and fish populations. No offense to the men and women who do these jobs for a living, but they don’t make for the most thrilling movie heroes, and their discussions do not make for riveting conversation.
Comedian Fred Stoller is intended to provide comic relief as one of the water inspectors whose bumbling is accompanied by on-the-nose music cues. He may as well be a lamprey himself though, since he is not given anything funny to say or to do that has the slightest chance of inspiring a laugh. Christopher Lloyd’s part is similarly underwritten to the point where he also has no material to chew on that might break him out of the stereotypical mold into which he was poured.
The script is instead focused on heavy-handed sentimentality. If you want to give yourself alcohol poisoning, make a drinking game out of downing a shot every time someone says “I love you” or hugs another person. It’s the kind of screenplay that is so generic in going through the motions that it doesn’t notice when it includes scenes or dialogue contradicting something else in the film.
When the main character is a lamprey expert whose specific purpose to the plot is to function as such, it doesn’t make sense for him to incredulously ask, “they attack people?” while an apparently more knowledgeable person explains the science behind lamprey feeding patterns. Jason Brooks then raises his eyebrows and responds, “huh, interesting.” I get that Animal Planet probably required on-air personality Jeremy Wade to be cast somewhere, but I have a hard time buying into the primary protagonist’s supposed expertise when someone else is portrayed as the smartest guy in the room.
Also, this note might be more for the editor, but if it storms so hard during production that you are forced to shoot the last act on clearly wet cement surrounded by deep puddles, then edit out the radio weatherman in the opening who says, “highs in the upper 70’s and low 80’s today … and not a drop of rain in sight!”
The scenery in “Blood Lake” is a lot of muddy water, dirty beaches, and incredibly boring landscapes. “Blood Lake” takes place in Michigan, although it was filmed in Southern California. Apparently, the solution to making sunny SoCal look like the Midwest is to make everything very, very brown and just hope the viewer ignores the palm trees and the mountains in the background.
A movie like “Sharknado” (review here) can get away with cheesy computer FX because its digitized sharks were doing silly things like crashing into Los Angeles landmarks and being chainsawed open by Ian Ziering. Fun can make cheap production value forgivable. But there is nothing fun about phony-looking eels writhing in water, on sand, in toilets, or on floors. Just as there is nothing frightening about a personality-less parasite the size of a hot dog, even if it is attacking and killing humans.
“Blood Lake” is a basic, yet functional family fright film. But in being so patently rote and broadly bland, it misses out on having any bite, wit, or snap that can otherwise make a mediocre monster movie moderately charming. “Blood Lake” is too tame for horror fans, too drab for younger crowds, and too sappy even for parents to watch with savvy kids who know better.
Review Score: 30