Lake Bodom


“What Knife?”

Main Cast: Nelly Hirst-Gee and Mimosa Willamo

Director: Taneli Mustonen

When I sat down to watch the 2016 Finnish horror movie LAKE BODOM (written by Aleksi Hyvanrinen and Taneli Mustonen with Mustonen also directing), I thought I was just watching the next movie on the Shudder list while my wife had band practice, and I was just killing 90 minutes until she got home.  I could read the subtitles so, even if I didn’t think the movie was all that great, I would have at least gotten some reading done while she was gone.  What I didn’t expect was to be so into the movie’s twists and turns and holy crap did you see that moments that I’d be actively planning what I was going to say in my review the next morning because of course I’m going to review this movie, it’s friggin’ AWESOME.

And then, of course, came the underwhelming and, honestly, a bit confusing ending and my enthusiasm for telling you about this movie was immediately halved.  So I had to go afterward and look up the plot summary on Wikipedia and found that to be less than helpful, and the ending described in there is sort of what I had gathered the ending to be, but it’s never definitively stated THIS IS WHAT HAPPENED, so it could just be a case of someone from the internet thought it ended the same way I thought it ended so that’s the “official” Wikipedia entry until someone comes along at a later date and changes it.  So for now I’m just going to remember fondly this really good movie I saw and, oh right, the ending’s not great, but what do they say, it’s the journey, not the destination?  Is that a saying?  I feel like it is.

Anyway, so LAKE BODOM.

In real life, there was an old-fashioned slasher episode where four friends were out camping one night and they were all four slaughtered in their tent and no one ever caught the killer.  Now, taking that real life event (it happened on June 5, 1960), a couple of Finnish teens, Elias (Mikael Gabriel, FLOWERS OF EVIL) and Atte (Santeri Helinheimo Mantyla, Hooked), recruit two fellow students, Ida (Nelly Hirst-Gee, IF YOU LOVE) and Nora (Mimosa Willamo, Deadwind), to come recreate that night with them in hopes of seeing if the killer is still out there.  See, Atte thinks the killer might still be in the woods, so why the hell he’d want to go out there and test that theory is beyond me, but this is a movie, so we’re going with it for now.

Besides, it’s four horror movie teens in the woods, what could possibly go wrong?

I can answer that one in one word: Everything.

The first thing that struck me about LAKE BODOM was how universally certain horror tropes translate around the world.  The characters Elias and Atte could have been lifted from any random American movie, Elias the thugged out teen with neck tattoos and blasting gangster rap from his car speakers, and Atte the typical bespectacled nerdy type.  Then there’s Ida and Nora, best friends through thick and thin.  Ida has recently been made a pariah at school and shamed her family name when some nude pics of her—that she didn’t know were being taken—have been circulating around school, while Nora is there to defend her friend’s honor to anyone who wants to challenge it.  You could have made LAKE BODOM in the early 2000s, put the cast from SCOOBY-DOO in here and had the exact same movie.

Another thing that struck me was the scenery.  I’ve no interest in ever going to Finland—not that there’s anything wrong with Finland, I’m just not one for travel—but man was the setting and location an important part of the experience.  I don’t know if it was filmed in the exact spot the 1960 murder actually occurred as it’s portrayed in the movie, but the spot they picked was both gorgeous and creepy as hell. The sense of isolation came through plenty here.

And finally … have you ever seen a movie and you’re chugging along and everything’s moving at a decent clip and you’re invested and then something happens that just puts everything else you’ve seen up to that point to shame?  That one thing that makes you sit up and say WOW.  You’ve seen it before, or close to it, but the way it was handled here is just a simply stunning achievement and has opened up a floodgate of potential future ideas in your head?  There’s a scene like that here, a car chase that isn’t a car chase but involves two cars, one following the other, and it’s got to be the most horrifying moment in a movie that already had a good handful of “Nope, don’t want to be in that situation ever ever” moments (retrieving the car keys!).

This was the scene that, for me, put this movie over the edge from Yeah, I could probably do a review of this, to Oh yes, I’m definitely reviewing this.

This was the first of, so far, three collaborations between the writers, with Mustonen directing, culminating in 2022’s THE TWIN, which was also good, with some genuinely creepy moments, but for pure excitement and holy crap tension, LAKE BODOM is their high water mark.

The cast was excellent, everyone sinking so perfectly into their roles, I never once wondered what they’re like off set in their normal every day lives, as I sometimes do when I find myself disengaging from a movie.  If you told me Hirst-Gee and Willamo are best friends in real life, I’d believe you.  If I saw Mikael Gabriel in something else without the neck tats and “urban” swagger, I’d wonder who the hell is this dude!  You’re telling me Santeri Helinheimo Mantyla ISN’T a D&D nerd who harbors an unhealthy fascination for serial killers?  The hell you say!

I’m not usually one for subtitled movies as I find reading the dialogue sometimes distracts from the action going on onscreen, but LAKE BODOM was next in line for the order in which movies were added to Shudder, so I had to watch it.  I’m glad I did.  Honestly, if it had a more concise, less ambiguous ending, I think this would be a 5 star movie just based on how engaged I was—and that car chase that isn’t a car chase.

LAKE BODOM is highly recommended.

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