Saturday, November 30, 2013
The Water Gardens of the Dead: Cabin By The Lake (2000) and Return to Cabin By The Lake (2001) Double Bill Review
Starring: Judd Nelson, Hedy Burress, Michael Weatherly
Sort of low-key as a slasher flick, but otherwise a decently smooth ride for a made for TV flick, Cabin By The Lake puts the tameness into a more acceptable level with a rather simple story that draws us into the life of a serial killer with a work life.
Stanley Caldwell is our resident scriptwriter, working on a slasher flick alone in a cabin by the lake and taking his time to do proper research to make this movie as effectively grueling as possible, much to the annoyance of his agent. The truth, however, is that his so-called "research" is more of hands-on calculated murders wherein he enacts his story's killings on kidnapped girls and study their reactions, right before he tends their bodies underwater in his own personal "garden".
The disappearances goes unnoticed in a small nearby town, and soon another local girl named Mallory was captured and nearly weighed down into the waters to drown, but was rescued by a group of film aficionados testing a dive cam.
Seeing Mallory as the only survivor of the crime, the local cops concocted a plan with the group that saved her to create a life-sized replica of her with a spy-cam hidden in one of the eyes, hoping to capture who the killer is. This sadly fails, and Mallory was soon captured again while cops and friends alike try their best to put the pieces together and find out who's behind the drownings.
Not the most gruesome the sub-genre has to offer, the film still is an entertaining watch for a TV flick since it did provide a lot of interesting elements to keep the story far from being a dragging wreck.
The murders are visibly bloodless, but relatively inventive and distressing, committed by a bewildering and sophisticated villain portrayed by Judd Nelson (whom you some of you may remember as the phone book-jotting killer in Relentless (1989)), whose sole reason for his psychosis is written out along his own screenplay, a twisted take mixing confession and artistic smugness. He has a streak for women that apparently boils deeper inside of him if one would notice how calculated he is in his murders, ironically offing them for the reason that he finds them "more beautiful dead than alive"; one thing I find that makes Nelson's character, and the film entirely, workably creepy.
It has its slow parts, purposely to focus on Caldwell and those who he interacts with, along to those who survived their encounters with him; thankfully this is well-written despite suffering from cheap clichés on amateur snooping and the still-popular-then self-satire started by the outbreak of 90s teen slashers. A worthwhile watch if you're up to something different for your dead teenager films apart from a higher bodycount and more misogynic messes.
1 female weighed down a lake, drowned
4 females found weighed in a lake and drowned
1 male found hacked on the chest with a cleaver
1 female weighed down a lake, drowned
Starring: Judd Nelson, Brian Krause, Dahlia Salem
A surprising follow-up, Return to Cabin by The Lake continues the story of one Stanley Caldwell, a screenwriter-slash-serial killer who faked his own death the last time around he got too close on being captured.
Now learning to disguise himself with cheap wigs and glue-on facial hair, Caldwell had now set his eyes on directing his own films after a few "pep talk" with one of his agents. (and soon, victim) Invading the set of a movie based on his own story, he murders his way to a directorial debut, but also finds himself in a predicament where his true identity is in risk of being exposed by relatives of past victims and even some of his own casts. In typical Caldwell fashion, he nonchalantly fixes these problems one by one, may it be through simple manipulation, or simply murder.
If the first Cabin tamed itself down with bloodless kills, Return To set itself lower with three measly killings (though admittedly more varying compared to the first film's) and a more comic tone. This left the film in a sort of state wherein it cannot decide whether it wanted to be a horror film, or a TV thriller with a cheap production, more often at times showing us more of Nelson's character in an attempt to show his screenplay the way he wanted it to be without exposing his true identity to those he wanted alive.
The cast are relatively fun in a cheesy, semi-clichéd way, again taking stabs on cheap slasher film productions and to how our we often we want our villains to be vile. A bit of a running gag is that Caldwell kept restraining the original director's exploited version of his killings, turning down every known horror/slasher tropes such as abused childhoods and sex=death debauchery. Obviously he didn't like anybody butchering his story, so he butchers those responsible for the first act, but the last act definitely walks away from routine, instead strolling slowly through casts, crews and justice-seeking victims becoming suspicious of their new director's off-put behavior.
Almost a drag, but thankfully had Nelson showcase an interesting serial killer with a now more personal mission to keep it from sinking any lower. Not for everybody's taste, but I find it a worthwhile TV time-waster.
1 female tied to a potted rose vine and weighed down into a lake, drowned
1 male shredded through boat propeller
1 male buried alive in a coffin