SXSW Film Review: Lake Bodom (Finland, 2016) attempts to straighten the horror genre curve

A delightfully nasty horror movie that draws on real-life inspiration, Lake Bodom hopes to be more than just a Friday The 13th-type slasher, in large part to its true crime connection, but ultimately can’t overcome its conventionality – not that there’s anything wrong with that.

What still remains one of Europe’s greatest unsolved mysteries, the Lake Bodom murders took place in 1960’s Finland where four camping teenagers were preyed upon by an unknown assailant.  Three of the teens were brutally murdered whilst the sole survivor staggered from the scene with a concussion, facial fractures and a broken jaw; the survivor would ultimately be charged for the murders some 45 years later, only to be found not guilty.

The murderous technique and the lack of closure regarding the case makes perfect horror movie fodder, and Lake Bodom goes for broke in posing the question – what if this carnage was to repeat itself?  Winking at past genre films like the aforementioned Friday the 13th and Wolf Creek, but never surrendering to self-referential parody ala Scream, Taneli Mustonen‘s straight-forward chiller does its best to ground itself in reality, and not just because of its disturbing inspiration.

It goes without saying that the four teenagers involved here – Mimosa Willamo, Nelly Hirst-Gee, Santeri Helinheimo and Mikael Gabriel – aren’t all making it out of the film in one piece, and as much as the set-up in getting them to the titular location wreaks of predictability (one is obsessed with the murders and therefore wants to “recreate” the setting), the path the film chooses to take is unexpected enough that we can forgive the film for appearing initially basic.

Whilst the script isn’t always as sharp as it wants to be, and a mid-film twist that wants to be considered bold, but is ultimately more illogical, stifles momentum, Lake Bodom is still an ambitious effort that is worth a look-in from horror audiences who can, at the very least, appreciate when a film attempts to straighten the curve in a genre that only sparsely surprised us.

Review Score: THREE AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Lake Bodom will be released exclusively on Shudder in May 2017. It is currently screening at SXSW.