The Lake, 2023.
Directed by Lee Thongkham
Starring Sushar Manaying, Teerapat Satjakul, Vithaya Pansringarm, Wanmai Chatborrirak, and Lamyai Haithongkham
A gigantic and bloodthirsty monster emerges from a lake after its egg is stolen and unleashes its fury on a town’s inhabitants, leaving a trail of destruction and death in its wake. The town of Bueng Kan, now cut off from the outside world, must mobilize its officials and citizens, as well as a group of scientists that are in town conducting research, to catch this predator before it’s too late.
Monster movies are ten-a-penny on any number of undiscovered cable channels. It takes a unique kind of Kaiju to swat aside the box-office dominance of Spielberg’s dinos, Toho’s Titans, or Cooper and Wallace’s Kong. What crawls from The Lake isn’t going to trouble those iconic cinematic giants, but it’s clearly a creation born from the huge footprints left by such influences, resulting in a film does just about enough to survive its sillier elements.
Completely ignoring the kind of slow-burn build-up which forms the backbone of some of your top-tier monster movies, such as Spielberg’s Jaws or even Gareth Edwards 2014 Godzilla, The Lake dives in feet first when it comes to the reveal of its beast. There are no half-glimpses or tantalising flash of a tentacles here, directors Lee Thongkham and Aqing Xu are intent on throwing as much of the monster at the screen as their budget will allow, meaning we get the top-to-tail shot within the opening minutes. It’s a strange decision considering the financial restraints mean that later scenes are shot in a way that conceal the creature, but it’s in keeping with the surface level nature of the film.
By that it’s clear that this is going to be a story full of what you see is what you get characters; there’s the daddy issues torn from the well-worn pages of Disaster Movies 101, and you can add to that the hard-nosed cop; the general who deep down inside knows that what’s going on is wrong; the brother and sister dynamic, one of whom is suffering from a similar condition to Sharlto Copley’s District 9 prawn; and then there’s the cute kid. There’s always gotta be a cute kid.
They are then thrown into a series of set-pieces that feel lifted directly from other films, all orchestrated to an admittedly good here comes the impending doom soundtrack.
So we get a rampaging attack through marshlands, which blurs the action to mask the CGI shortcomings. At this point it’s worth mentioning that there is more than one version of the creature from the lake, so there are a few variants from the Godzilla-like form depicted on the poster. This attack is carried out by a Del Toro style Hell-hound by way of Demogorgon manifestation, which picks off people as they flee. It’s effective in establishing the pace of the film, which really is just one attack sequence after another, with very little room for character development beyond the behaviour of such recognisable archetypes.
The more impressive set-pieces are when the larger beast is positioned front and centre, whether that’s chasing a car in a scene similar to the Ford Explorer pursuit in Spielberg’s original Jurassic Park, or the rain soaked “don’t move” scene that’s similar to the…..erm…..Ford Explorer attack in…..let me think…..Spielberg’s original Jurassic Park. The thing is, they’re both executed brilliantly, which makes you wish they’d tried something a little more original with the tools at their disposal. That stretches from the action, to the look of the beast.
Ultimately The Lake feels like something plucked from the imagination of a kid bashing two dinosaur toys together. A basic monster-of-the-week premise filtered through a lens of climate change, eco-disaster, and someone who has watched Jurassic Park and The Host a million times. All elements which make for an enjoyable and slick slice of disposable monster mayhem, but it also had the potential to be so much more.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film ★ ★ / Movie ★ ★ ★
Matt Rodgers – Follow me on Twitter