The Lake on Clinton Road Movie Review
Written by Greg Fisher
Released by Osiris Entertainment
Written and directed by Deshon Hardy
2015, 80 minutes, Not Rated
Alan Bendich as Detective Stevens
India Autry as Stacy
Aram Bauman as Thomas
Tina Krause as Diana White
Leah Jones as Jillian
Stephanie Marrone as Amber
Richard Ryker as Alex
Upon watching a trailer for The Lake on Clinton Road, I was initially excited for what looked to be a standard "teens- twenty somethings against the supernatural while on vacation" movie, but with some promising effects and possibly, some fresh air for the subgenre. I was mostly right, and we're all the worse for it.
As stated, the movie follows a group of college aged bros out with their sorority pledging, tequila shot ordering, former high school cheerleader girlfriends for a binge filled trip out to the Jersey Shore. What they weren't told by Alex, played by Richard Rykker, who set the trip up, is that the house he rented is not on the shore, but on a lake known to be haunted. Hijinks inevitably ensue.
In all seriousness, the cast looks like they could have been culled from any number of the gelled and painted-up patrons that happened to still be standing at 2 AM at a random dance club in Atlantic City. The two main male cast members, Ant Grant and Richard Rykker, look and talk so much alike in the movie that the only way I was able to tell the difference between them was from Rykker's longer hair. This might sound trivial if Grant were not an African American and Rykker white. Rykker obviously got plenty of tanning in his GTL, and while both spouted the words "bro", "man", "bitch", and "a'ight" at lightning speed, the character difference is negligible.
The same goes for two of the three women in the group, Leah Jones and Stephanie Marrone. Rounding out the last of the six are resident sassy black lady played by India Autry, and the fat guy played by Matty Poslusny, who mentions his weight in every sentence he utters. None of the actors particularly sparkle, but Ant Grant, as the ever belligerent Mark, has some of the better acting in the movie. Others, particularly Poslusny and Marrone, somehow make bad dialogue even worse with cold, ineffective, and wooden line readings.
The main locus for blame, though, can be set squarely on director and writer DeShon Hardy. While the idea for the story has creative merit, his horrendously written dialogue, poor character development, and all around lack of understanding of what drives a story other than flashy shots tank whatever promise the movie held. It would be wrong not to acknowledge what was done right first. Hardy and cinematographer Aram Bauman do an admittedly wonderful job framing shots and lighting every scene. Had it been a silent movie, these two things alone might raise the Rotten Tomatoes score for the movie by thirty percent. The camera work through most of the movie, minus a regrettable handycam chase through the woods, is solid. Hardy also executes three or four very effective and entertaining practical effects for the ghost, one of which I hadn't seen before.
I got the feeling that had Hardy surrounded himself with better people, a much better film could have been made. Instead, he went forward with an atrocious shooting script, compiled a cast whose combined IMDB pages couldn't fill a full printed page, and threw in a creepy kid and his mother played by an adult film actress. He gave us what he thought we wanted in horror movies, by having all three of the female actresses have a scene where the camera follows them in panties at close range from behind, and getting two of the actresses topless for gratuitous shots.
Granted, one male is fully nude in the film, but only filmed from much further away, and with no sexy music. The women are in this movie as eye candy or as a device to make the men go back into the haunted house, and nothing more. He also borrowed the "coolest" effects from horror movies over the past decade, which translates to "effects ripped off on every D grade schlockfest". It ticks off like a checklist. Showing that someone is possessed by speeding up their movements and keeping everything else in real time? Check. Creepy kid with blacked-out eyes? Check. People slowly try to touch the shoulder of a character they know there is something wrong with, as said character keeps their back to the camera? Check! In fact, twice! Ghost walks by a partially open door/ car, just getting the attention of a character as it passes so they have to separate from the group to investigate? Three times!
What made me the saddest is the opportunity Hardy missed with the character of Jaime. While nowhere near "fat" as he constantly proclaims, actor Matty Poslusny works hard to make the character amiable and likeable. He pranks his friends, jokes around constantly (albeit with one of the more abrasive laughs in movie history), and adores his completely-out-of-his-league girlfriend. This alone makes him an anomaly in the world of horror cinema. Traditionally, the fat guy in a horror movie is an odd looking sad sack that pines after the attractive girl (see Shelley in Friday the 13th Part III) or is an ignorant, repulsive boor (see Ed in Shaun of the Dead). As scripted, Jaime is well into the Ed territory, yet surprisingly is dating a woman the other two actively ogle in one scene. Matty brings something else to the role, making Jaime more whole than scripted, but is not enough of an actor to break through the one-sided characterization provided in the script.
In all, what starts off with promise ultimately grows sour through poor acting, bad writing, and poor directing decisions. I would be interested to see what Deshon Hardy does next, if only to see if he can learn from any of the mistakes he made on this film.