Color, 1987, 81 mins. 53 secs.
Directed by Tim Boggs
Starring Doug Barry, Angela Darter, Mike Kaufman, Andrea Adams, Travis Krasser, Christie Willoughby, Tiny Frazier
American Genre Film Archive / Bleeding Skull (DVD) (US R0 NTSC)
"It's an acquired taste" has long been the mantra of many devotees of shot-on-video horror movies that flourished in mom and pop stores throughout the 1980s, and nowhere is that more applicable than Blood Lake. Shot on a camcorder at the lake house of its leading lady's family and so filled with padding it could actually drive some viewers insane, this has often been branded as one of the worst slasher films ever made (if not the worst). However, if you're on that SOV wavelength and have an affection for how these things operate, there's a lot of whacked-out, aimless amusement to be had in this peculiar, Oklahoma-shot offering from one-shot director Tim Boggs.
A weekend out at the sort-of picturesque Cedar Lake turns into a slow-burning nightmare for pals and Trans Am nuts Mike (writer and producer Barry) and Bryan (Kaufman) who bring along their girlfriends, Becky (Darter) and Kim (Adams), along with little bro Tony (Krasser) and tagalong Susan (Willoughby). However, as we see in the opening scene, a chubby guy (Frazier) in cowboy boots and overalls is wandering around saying "I can't take it no more" and plunging his knife into anyone around the property. From there it basically turns into a dime-store Richard Linklater movie for an hour as the camera hangs out with the kids while they water ski, play quarters, pull pranks, and try to help the underage, foul-mouthed Tony to score with Susan. ("This is gonna be a very long three days" is perhaps the most telling line of dialogue.) Of course, it's only a matter of time before they have to pay for their mullets and fashion crimes when the killer and his hunting knife come calling for a night of dimly lit carnage.
"We did the best we could with what we had to work with" is an appropriate early sentiment in the audio commentary for this film's inaugural DVD release in 2019 from the joint venture of the American Genre Film Archive and Bleeding Skull, bringing the film back into circulation after its United VHS release that confounded more than its fair share of unsuspecting customers. ("I made this movie for 11 years old" is another good summation.) Since this was shot on standard def video this presentation is about as good as it'll get, at least taken from the original 1-inch master and better than the VHS. The new audio commentary with Boggs and Bleeding Skull's Annie Choi and Joseph A. Ziemba is as entertaining as you'd expect including anecdotes about the cast, appreciation for the fantastic homegrown metal soundtrack by the enigmatic group Voyager, and the endearing personality of Krasser, that kid "who used to flip off cars" and whose current whereabouts are unknown. They also go into the measures taken to get the film to its desired 80-minute running time, the threadbare nature of the "crew," and a connection to another horror film, Offerings. Then Boggs and Barry reunite for a 2018 Fantastic Fest screening Q&A (22m13s) with the Bleeding Skull gang for a lighthearted discussion about how their lake vacation ended up turning into a DIY horror movie. Also included are a promo trailer ("unseen since 1987!") and a Boggs short film, Ashes (13m4s), an amusing look at the perils of cigarette smoking that's shot in glorious black-and-white VHS-o-Vision.
Reviewed on March 22, 2019.