Studio: Breaking Glass Pictures
Director: Ben Milliken
Writer: Stevie Jane Miller
Producer: Scott Miller, Lamar Billups
Stars: Caroline Tudor, Brad Schmidt, Brando Eaton, Laura Niemi, Eileen Dietz, Peter O’Brien, Michael Shamus Wiles
A family’s Christmas getaway to a snowy cabin becomes a night of terror when they are stalked by a masked murderer.
The US box art for “Lake Alice,” which features a blade-wielding madman in a bloody mask hovering ominously above a snowy cabin, sets a slaughter scene fit for Jason Voorhees. The box art used in the UK, where the film released as “Lake Tomahawk,” is more appropriately tuned to the actual tone of the film. It’s simply a bloody tomahawk jutting from frozen water. Not exactly exciting, yet not overselling the movie as something it isn’t.
“Lake Alice,” or “Lake Tomahawk” if you’re on the east side of the Atlantic, still qualifies as a slasher and does include the bloody killer, even if he doesn’t appear exactly as depicted on the cover. But that’s only during the last act. The two acts leading into it involve an anemic whodunit, or rather whowilldoit, with about as much intrigue as wondering what leftovers are currently in your fridge.
Having dated for a year, it’s finally time for Ryan to meet Sarah’s parents. A Christmas trip to the snow-covered family cabin seems like a perfect opportunity for introductions, as well as to pop the question whose answer turns Sarah from girlfriend to fiancée.
Not everyone is pleased with the nuptial news. Sarah’s former summer fling who still lives near the lake appears unusually brokenhearted. And even with Sarah’s mother Natalie offering unconditional congratulations, her father Greg has only a suspicious grimace suggesting Ryan isn’t fit for his daughter.
Greg has additional issues on his mind. Some bad blood in their past puts Greg on the wrong side of shifty local sheriff Hank, who seems determined to make the family’s temporary stay an unpleasant one. Deputy Reed has a similar agenda, taking as unkindly as anyone to Ryan working his way in with Sarah.
That’s why when bodies start dropping, which takes quite a while, no one can be sure who is wearing the murderer’s mask or why. Is someone obsessed with Sarah? Is a dark secret coming back to haunt Greg? Or could the killings have something to do with a local oddball settling an unknown score with the family?
This mystery of whose vendetta will bring out the blade makes up the movie’s true meat and potatoes, which isn’t much of a meal. After an abduction that occupies the pre-credits prologue, no action occurs again until the 45-minute mark, when there is only another half hour remaining in the runtime.
Every potential troublemaker in the interim is established with the same modus operandi: the camera cuts to a close-up of the person in question while a music cue warbles underneath. The concerned expression over whatever was just revealed blinds the audience with a bright neon “suspect!” sign. What we aren’t offered is backstory to put context behind obvious clues. The unspecified beef between Greg and law enforcement remains between them. Multiple men appear unhealthily interested in Sarah, although there is no reason given aside from her attractiveness.
Drama drags for three-quarters of an hour because “Lake Alice” has a hard time drumming up a consistent beat. Setups serve their purposes to the story. Then misguided moments freeze momentum or shots linger a hair too long before cutting to the next part of a conversation. Editing doesn’t provide nearly enough energy to step up the tempo.
Effort is evident in “Lake Alice.” Any indie production with the guts to go out in the snow and at night is a step ahead of less motivated microbudget movies. Able acting takes a slim script as far as it can go too.
There’s just no getting around the lethargic lack of zip sucking the life out of everything. An ending that spins itself dizzy from several far-fetched switcheroos confirms “Lake Alice” relies too much on its silly surprise destination instead of fulfilling a satisfying journey of suspense.
Review Score: 45