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DIRECTOR: James Cullen Bressack RELEASE DATE: May 25, 2014 RATING (US): TV-14
CAST: Shannen Doherty, Jason Brooks, Christopher Lloyd et al.
// review by Jeff

Lamprey, love.

I honestly don't know what to make of this movie. I can't tell if this is supposed to be a genuine horror film, a comedy masquerading as a horror film, or a sick joke played upon all of us. I'm having a hard time imagining anyone considering Blood Lake: Attack of the Killer Lampreys as a legitimate movie.

Plopped out in 2014 on Animal Planet (the channel of choice if you suffer from a severe case of anthropophobia), this movie follows the Parker family as they move to Michigan so... ummm... actually, I can't remember quite why they moved there. Doesn't matter anyway because it's all fake — why are there palm trees and large mountains in the background? That's not Michigan, that's Oahu. The Parker family follows the typical American dynamic: Michael, the father who works all the time and isn't home enough; Cate, the mother who puts up with it and keeps the house at least moderately in order; Nicole, the teenaged daughter who thinks everything is stupid except boys, bikinis, and... nope, that's about it; and Kyle, the kid with thick glasses who can't make any friends. After moving to Michigan, Michael, who works for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, is called in by fellow agent Will to investigate an overpopulation of lampreys in the area. But these turn out to be not just any ordinary, run-of-the-mill, Captain Highliner-style lampreys: instead, they're vicious. They quickly tear through the entire aquatic ecosystem, chomping on everything in their path and are hungry for more. They cross the local dam — by climbing it by suction, a feat that must be praised — and enter the nearby lake and soon the city's water supply, feasting on human flesh if they can get to it.

Yes, the monster in this movie isn't a giant lizard or even a man-crazy octopus. It's a bunch of eels that want to suck the necks of humans. I've met a few of these at dodgy taverns. There are only two real impediments to dealing with these creatures. First, how exactly are you going to kill MILLIONS of eels all in one swoop when they are literally all over the place? As the movie goes on, we discover that they can pretty much wriggle on any surface they want. They'll sneak up your toilet pipes, slosh their way into the kitchen, and murder you while you're finessing a Pop Tart. They have no issue shuttling around on land, so there really is no escape, unless you have a weapon. Luckily, effective weapons in the film do exist, including a hair curler and a weed whacker. Hey, gotta be resourceful. In tough times, releasing your inner MacGyver could save your life. Second, the Mayor (played by Christopher Lloyd in a role that wasn't exactly ideal for anyone, really) wants immediate results — as in within one day — and adamantly refuses to allow additional time to ACTUALLY solve the problem, solely because he wants the money brought in by tourists. Closing the beaches and shutting off the water system, as intelligently suggested by Michael, would be an impediment to this, so he denies the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service these rights. Even when people get attacked by the lampreys, people he knew well, that doesn't stop his corrupt greed from directing his decisions. Seems like decent, upstanding town mayors in film are about as hard to find as, well, a good movie on Animal Planet. At least his dishonour comes to bite him right in the butt — more literally than I'd have preferred to see.


Christopher Lloyd, you deserved better than to die this way...

So what exactly makes this a movie you'd be advantaged not to see? First of all, the acting is downright terrible. It's clear they didn't grab from the finest tree of actors, instead going mostly for what I like to call "availables". But they DID need big names to lure in viewers, so they cast former Beverly Hills 90210 and Charmed star Shannen Doherty in one of the main roles. She's admittedly not the worst of the bunch, but this could be largely attributed to the fact that her character is so flat, she has little opportunity to show off any signs of acting chops. To appeal to the geekdom, meanwhile, they cast Christopher Lloyd as the crusty mayor, and he definitely deserved a better role than this. Relatively little screen time and ridiculous lines (not to mention a boom operator who was napping half the time during his scenes) made that a waste of a decent actor. The rest of the cast, though with many other credits in their stead, couldn't make this believable. It's not Birdemic bad, but it's more like reading words off a script for the first time and then pretending you have acting experience.

Of course, much of my ire could be directed at the absolutely lifeless script, mostly suffering from limp dialogue but occasionally uninteresting or nonsensical side-stories. Case in point: Michael's teenage daughter meets a boy named Alex who apparently also runs a pool repair company called Mr. Pool. So already there's a bit of an age discrepancy because most teenagers I knew in high school didn't run businesses. In fact, none of them did. So is her actually a lot older? It gets more bizarre when the Parkers' daft/perky 30-some-odd next-door neighbour, Ellen, invites Alex over to fix her pool and says she'll be gone for a while... and then goes nowhere, instead preparing champagne and two glasses. If she's actually going to seduce this guy, he'd better be older. Joke's on her, though, as she ends up getting mauled to death by lampreys in her pool. Strange thing is, no hint is ever made of their relationship prior to this. In fact, she only appeared once before in the entire movie. She's not a main character; she's a stock character that somehow worked her way up to earn a plot point. Her demise, however, did illustrate the effects of the lampreys to the other characters, though, so maybe her death wasn't in vain.

Even the characters range from ludicrously dull (see also: the MAIN CHARACTER) to the inanely bizarre. I never considered the acting abilities of comedian Fred Stoller to be notable or existent, but his character Rich, complete with dopey mannerisms in which he never takes his job seriously (yet still works for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife department), brings this to a whole new level. His partner, Marcy, is the more sane one, but her lines are incredibly flat. And while I'm on the subject of bad characterization, why do kids in these movies take so long to react to immediate dangers around them? Kyle, the Parkers' son, just stands there like an oaf as the lampreys home in on him instead of even considering defending himself. This could be merely a demonstration of freezing in the moment, but just standing there with a dumbfounded look on your face is not what I would do when squirrely eels are trying to KILL me. I'll give them some credit for making the teenage daughter seem somewhat convincing in her attitude towards her oft-absent father and for life. She may be the only person in the movie that acts as an actual person would and brings a slight credibility to the movie beyond likely being included solely for the teenage boy demographic. Plus, she's pretty mean with a weed whacker.

As lifeless as the script is, that doesn't hold a candle to the ever-astounding high-quality CGI used here. And when I say "high-quality", I mean it's better than MS Paint but still that generic type of "obviously fake" portrayed by a low special effects budget.

At least it's a step above this.

In a scene where there are supposed to be thousands of lamprey squirming about on the ground, I felt as though I had travelled back in time to an era where animated GIFs were considered legitimate art. It's actually more believable when they just use plastic lampreys, especially when someone gets bitten by one. And believe me: everyone gets bitten by one sooner or later, with the possible exception of Shannen Doherty. She probably had a "no biting" clause in her contract. Maybe that's for the best.

In the end, though, Blood Lake is basically your cheap TV movie that may have had good intentions from the outset but was held back by a low budget. It's not without its merits, especially if you enjoy horror movies that end up being more comedic than anything. Play this one on a movie night with your friends and get some cheap laughs. And be careful when you're visiting the restroom: you never know when some spoooooooky lampreys are going to pop out of there and try to murder everyone you hold dear! Oooooo! *cough*


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