Director: Taneli Mustonen
Writer: Taneli Mustonen, Aleksi Hyvarinen
Producer: Aleksi Hyvarinen
Stars: Nelly Hirst-Gee, Mimosa Willamo, Mikael Gabriel, Santeri Helinheimo Mantyla
Four teenagers encounter unexpected terror while camping at the site of Lake Bodom’s unsolved 1960 murders.
The true crime story of Finland’s Lake Bodom is an unsolved mystery akin to the Dyatlov Pass Incident meets the Zodiac Killer’s Lake Berryessa murders. On June 5th in 1960, four teens camping at the site were brutally butchered and bludgeoned by at least one unknown assailant who never set foot in their tent. Three of the teens died. In a bizarre turn of events, the lone survivor was tried and acquitted of the crimes 45 years later. From a shifty drifter to a KGB assassin, even rumors of a red-eyed beast, to this day there is no shortage of speculation on what might have happened at Lake Bodom.
High-schooler Atte has a theory. Now he needs a few friends for a recreation to help test it. As in reality, the fictional Finnish teens of the film “Lake Bodom” have been raised on local whispers of why many are wary of these woods. Elias doesn’t share Atte’s unusual interest in the case. But he does see a piggyback chance to bring a pair of crush-worthy girls on a hopefully wild weekend while placating his pal.
Recovering from a public shaming after nude pics were posted online, Ida and her girlfriend Nora, herself dealing with dad’s tragic suicide, are in desperate need of a getaway. Falling for Atte’s false pretense of a fun cabin holiday, they agree to go to Lake Bodom with the two boys. Once the tent is pitched and the first fire started however, it turns out the four teens have more than one ulterior motive among them for wanting to come to this notorious lake location.
“Lake Bodom” is what a savage slasher film looks like when the kids aren’t caricatures and the murderer isn’t a merchandisable masked maniac. Atte is a bespectacled bookworm and Elias is a tatted bad boy. Ida is a cross-wearing Christian and Nora is her tomboyish bad influence. First impressions paint the foursome as another typical horror quartet, but “Lake Bodom” excels at appearances that are deceiving.
There is no montage of pop music and popped beer cans as someone whoo-hoos from a sunroof here. These are authentically multi-note personalities who happen to be teenagers headed to the trees for an ill-advised trip.
Atte and the others fit seen-before stereotypes though their awkward camaraderie makes story sense because they actually aren’t a close clique of friends. Their different dispositions as well as unspoken intentions are bringing them together. This trip to Lake Bodom is the necessity they share in common.
Individual alliances are uneasy. Silent stares suggest unsettling uncertainties. Atte for instance is part Columbine creeper and part nebbish nerd. While you are caught wondering what to make of everyone, something unexpected immediately alters the dynamic. With neck-snapping shock, “Lake Bodom” fires up a flare of fair warning that although it may appear formulaic on the surface, an inventively original movie is in play.
As quickly as the plot passes by predictability, “Lake Bodom” disappointingly boomerangs backward. Other than an obvious narrative need to separate someone from the slashing or to be slashed, I’ll never understand why camping characters venture so far from the fire when nature calls in the night. Then, one of the ladies of this lake stumbles and injures her ankle with a, “go on without me!” exclamation. Oh no, “Lake Bodom.” You were doing so well.
Oh no, indeed. Defenses now down that this might be an ordinary affair after all, “Lake Bodom” dispenses with these diversions using one more sudden switch to clarify conventional clichés are only one more redirect. “Lake Bodom” takes the same setup steps as countless slashers that have come before, then forces a disoriented audience to surrender that there is no way to know what the next hour has in store.
The beauty of “Lake Bodom’s” twists is they are specifically timed revelations occupying natural turns in the story. Co-writers Taneli Mustonen and Aleksi Hyvarinen aren’t out to impress with how clever they can be through far out fiction. “Lake Bodom” is spectacularly cinematic, yet frighteningly real.
Waste time trying to divine the outcome if you wish. You may be able to foresee some of the movie’s mysteries, but you will never anticipate it all. A breathtaking underwater sequence. An incredible vehicle stunt. A devilish tie to the original crime. “Lake Bodom” makes all the right moves as a woodland slasher and as a thriller, and it is one of the year’s top ten horror movies because of it.
Review Score: 90