HOUSE BY THE LAKE (2017) Reviews and overview

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‘Something’s coming’

House by the Lake is a 2017 American horror film directed Adam Gierasch (Tales of Halloween; Fertile Ground; Night of the Demons; et al) from a screenplay by newcomer Josh Burnell. It stars James Callis, Anne Dudek and Amiah Miller.

House by the Lake debuted in the US on VOD, Digital HD and DVD on October 10, 2017.

A struggling couple, Scott (James Callis) and Karen (Anne Dudek), pack up Emma (Amiah Miller), their troubled young daughter, and head to a picturesque lake house to reconnect and put their problems behind them.

As Emma spends time with Gwen (Natasha Bassett), her new nanny, the little girl begins fixating on an imaginary friend she calls the Fish Man.

Karen’s fear of the strange man down the beach, Emma’s fear of the water and her recurring sleepwalking continue to raise tensions in the house and drive a wedge between Scott and Karen until one night Emma disappears. When she’s found breathing underwater in the tub, Emma insists she’s been with the Fish Man. And he’s coming back for her…

Review [contains spoilers]:

With a threadbare premise, threadbare cinematography, threadbare sound and a lacklustre script, House by the Lake unfortunately falls flat. Everything in this film is just so, and nothing more.

Adam Gierasch’s direction is largely bland and uninspired. Josh Burnell’s script is rich in agonizingly tiresome tropes, with characters heavy on predictable, snarky interactions and light on empathy; Burnell even goes so far as to introduce a gratuitous Eliza Dushku look-a-like nanny character in order to antagonize the already fever-pitch bristling between the two main characters, played adequately by Anne Dudek and James Callis.

It becomes apparent early on that the viewer is in for a reflexive and ponderous ride when the main couple’s daughter, played by Amiah Miller, is shown to have a disabling mental condition which may be causing her to imagine things. Well, we haven’t seen that before.

The film only truly becomes interesting at the end, just before the credits roll, when things take a fun, early Roger Corman-esque turn for the better, a twist that doesn’t really fit with the rest of the film. If Burnell and Gierasch had just scrapped everything else and started with the last sixteen minutes of the movie, this would have had a nice, throwback 1950s Creature Features vibe to it. An enjoyable short. Predictable, yes, but at least it would be fun, which this film is not.

Ben Spurling, MOVIES & MANIA

Other reviews:

“No CGI is used. The practical effects may not look excellent but I enjoyed them more because of it. The films plot may resemble that of a lifetime movie of family turmoil. If that’s not your type of movie, stick around. The ending reminds me of a story you’d find in a Creepshow segment and is well worth the wait.” Without Your Head

” …mostly plays out as a tedious drama, with unconvincing soap opera dialogue, unsympathetic characters and at least one unintentionally funny, melodramatic moment. The horror elements only kick in at the very end, having apparently drifted in from a completely different movie. You’ll be rooting for The Fish Man… and wishing you were watching Isle of the Fishmen.” Horror Screams Video Vault

Main cast:

  • James Callis – Castlevania
  • Anne Dudek – Grimm; Shadow People; Bones
  • Amiah Miller – War for the Planet of the Apes; Lights Out
  • Natasha Bassett
  • Michael Bowen – All Cheerleaders Die; Slumber Party Slaughter; Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever; The Last House on the Left; Deadgirl; Forbidden World
  • Lee Garlington – iZombie; Pulse 2: Afterlife; Mortuary
  • Guy Nardulli
  • Mark Berry
  • Jon Fedele

Filming locations:

Big Bear Lake, California

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