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The potential for greatness in “The Lake” is there, but the story fails to captivate and the strong creature visuals are rarely on display.

I’ve loved monster films from an early age, from the original King Kong to the Harryhausen-driven fantasy films and then to the latter-day incarnations of Godzilla and Skull Island. Thus, when the opportunity to review a new entry like The Lake comes along, I am genuinely excited about it.

Set in Thailand, The Lake starts with discovering a massive egg unknown to the inhabitants of a fishing village near the Mekong River. The night fishermen are startled to discover that the egg is not alone and the parent is about to make its presence known.

Soon, the local village is attacked by a part amphibious creature that wounds and kills in equal respect as it continues its search for the egg.

There is a backdrop of scientific investigation into abnormal weather conditions as having a causal effect on the monster making its appearance. As the town is continually attacked and the bodies mount, it’s discovered that this creature is not fully grown, leaving a lone cop and two siblings who share a mysterious link with the monster to try and stop it before it’s too late.

This is a potted breakdown of the story The Lake. This Thai horror film has all the traditional tropes you might expect, such as the cop with the rebellious and distant daughter to the child in peril, which no genre film can do without. It’s presented well, relying on night shots, shadows, and rain to mask the appearance and, therefore, any limitations in either practical or CGI effects. It relies on the actors to carry a lot, and they perform as well as expected.

The practical monster work is decent and, for me, works better than the CGI employed. Some great shots emphasize this. It is also designed well — enough to be different from other notable monsters that inhabit the far east.

Getting to the end, I don’t think I have been as disappointed in a monster movie as I am with The Lake.

There is some great work here, especially during the opening act, which sets up events nicely with the initial appearance and then gets the story running. My problem is that there appeared to be too many threads to resolve or a disconnect in what the makers wanted to do.

There is a fine balance to these films, and it’s difficult to find it when you are conscious of what has gone before whilst trying to break new ground. Do you go the full-on popcorn movie route or pave your own way?

If it’s the latter, you best make sure it is the best story you can tell within the constraints of budget, etc.

To be fair, someone else might enjoy a mediation on the parallels between Monster and the human family, of its importance across every spectrum of life.

My problem with The Lake is that the trailer suggests more of a traditional, action-packed monster movie. I expected the monster to awaken and lay waste to the surrounding area until a solution was found. And the beginning of the film reinforced this idea, setting me up for false expectations and disappointment.

The trouble is primarily that the film doesn’t maintain or build upon the initial strong start.

The Lake soon falls into a tepid pace where the expected action doesn’t come; it fizzles out.

As previously mentioned, it’s solid from a technical aspect — well-shot with decent practical effects. However, there do seem to be some lost-in-translation moments with the subtitles. This doesn’t really detract that much from the viewing, though.

The real problem is that it leans heavily into overused tropes, with a lackluster script that doesn’t bring anything new to the table, while not giving us enough monster action to make us happy to overlook failures in the story.

The actual monster is conspicuously absent for long stretches. Instead, we just see a lot of the aftermath following the attack.

Some of the threads are resolved in the most common way, which feels lazy. If you watch a lot of monster movies,  you’ll be able to see where it’s going from a mile away.

Ultimately, rating this film has proven difficult. It’s definitely not abjectly bad, and the movie does look good. On the other hand, The Lake doesn’t really deliver on its promise, committing the cardinal sin of holding back far too much on the action. For me, this action is really a prerequisite for an enjoyable monster film, making it impossible for me to really recommend this one to those who love these types of films as much as I do.

Overall Rating (Out of 5 Butterflies): 2
The Lake is available digitally from Epic Pictures beginning May 16, 2023.

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