With so many options to rent/buy/stream movies, it’s amazing how many titles still linger in Never-never Land. And, with so much content, it’s even more remarkable that so many film fans remain curious about those strange little shot-on-video regional oddities that were made in a particular space and time (that foreign land known as the mid-late 1980s) to fill one specific need (to stock video store shelves). Quickly produced items were spun out all over the country and their alluring VHS box art spoke to those looking for a quick horror fix at the local mom and pop video shop. Like the biggest, splashiest Hollywood affairs, there were gems (Boardinghouse) and there were clunkers (I’m too nice to say), and, of course, there were those that fell somewhere in between (Blood Cult). Now it’s 2018, and just when we thought those shot-on-video genre titles would only be dusty memories in our deranged minds, a few of them have started popping up on DVD, and even Blu Ray.
One of the reasons for the heightened interest in these little films is the website Bleeding Skull, whose unrelenting cheerleading has ignited everything from fervent passion to enthusiastic curiosity over movies with titles like Attack of the Beast Creatures and Phantom Brother. I ran across Bleeding Skull around 2008 and was instantly hooked on their stream-of-consciousness reviews where the writers always managed to focus on the best things in the types of films that are often considered the worst.
It is here that I first discovered Blood Lake, a late entry slasher that was shot in some place where Southern accents are thick and the mullets run big. I instantly sought it out when I read about an oversexed pre-teen character that apparently stole every frame he was in. From its opening credits I was instantly smitten… and I have never looked back.
Blood Lake is essentially about some big guy who walks around in cowboy boots killing anyone who enters the little lakeside vacation home he is squatting in. A group of teenagers show up for a break from the city and to enjoy a lot of beer and waterskiing. Little do they know that some big guy who walks around in cowboy boots is killing anyone who enters the… wait? Did I just write that? Well, it’s one of those circular films, where the story (what there is of it) goes around and around, and doesn’t really mean much in the end.
And it’s magnificent!
Blood Lake is like watching home video footage of your most laid back teenage vacation. The characters waterski for what feels like forever and play quarters in real time. They fall asleep on the couch and they eat sandwiches on their front lawn. Sometimes they make out, sometimes they smoke pot, and that super hyper-sexualized tween is named Lil Tony (Travis Krasser), and indeed, he always has the best one-liners (My favorite being the one that starts with “I’ve got my beer and my sex partner…”). And, surprisingly enough, every performance is sincere and the characters are actually quite likeable. It’s easy to spend eighty minutes just watching them be whoever they are. I don’t know how Blood Lake does it, but it helps that the only antagonist in the film is the killer. It also helps that the actors aren’t so bad, and that Lil Tony is the most insanely lewd preteen that ever walked through the eighties. Somehow it all falls together and you may find you don’t care that there’s no story or character development. You’re just enjoying the ride.
It was pretty amazing for me to be able to experience Blood Lake on the big screen at Fantastic Fest. Director Tim Boggs was accompanied by producer/star Doug Barry, and they took the whole thing in stride. It must have been something for them to see their little shot-on-video-slasher-that-could projected in a theater. Boggs went on to work in Hollywood as a sound guy, and said he cringes whenever he listens to the not-so-great audio in his film. But that’s all part of the charm. Blood Lake represents the best of the “Let’s put on a play in the barn” chutzpah that was so prevalent in the early days of direct-to-video. The audience ate it up and elected Lil Tony as our king. It was a good time.