Text © Richard Gary / Indie Horror Films, 2017
Images from the Internet
Directed by Chris Majors
Savage Beast Films / Solid Weld Productions /
FilmRise / Gravitas Ventures / MVD Visual
FilmRise / Gravitas Ventures / MVD Visual
103 minutes, 2016 / 2017
Let me start of by stating that the name of this film is brilliant, and I wonder why I’ve never heard of anyone else using it. Kudos on that!
When I think of Lake Erie, I tend to think of the New York end of it, having so many friends along it’s east shore. In actuality, the Great Lake touches on four states (not counting Ontario to the north): Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Michigan. It is the latter, in the town of La Salle, where this was both filmed and takes place (in the family-owned domicile of the director). It’s a huge house just off the lake, in this story recently bought through a repossession auction by a young woman who has moved off the farm to forget the recent death of her husband. Having been abandoned and untouched since 1969 when its previous dashing anthropologist owner mysteriously disappeared, it gives the widow, Kate (Meredith Majors, the director’s spouse who also wrote the screenplay), a way to start over and get some therapy through painting (and a large amount of prescription pills apparently, considering the number she downs in the course of a few days).
Soon after she is given the keys by the realtor (Marilyn Ghigliotti, who rose to some fame as the female lead in Kevin Smith’s overrated 1994 debut, Clerks), most people in the area have already packed up from the Lake for the season (i.e., post-Labor Day). That is, except for the nice lady who lives a few doors down, Eliza (Betsy Baker, who will forever be associated as the demonically laughingLinda in 1981’s classic The Evil Dead). I quickly got the heebie-jeebies about her, just from the constant use of her calling Kate “Dear.” Not a good thing for a neighbor in a horror flick having to do with spirits and demons (1968’s Rosemary’s Baby comes to mind).
Sadly, this “tell” is endemic to the writing of the film, which makes questionable moves throughout, even when trying to strike some originality. More on that later. Kate makes many, many, questionable choices. For example, on the first night, she is on the main floor and sees a huge and unknown man (Allen Sarvin, better known as wrestler Al Snow, who has been making quite a nice dip into the indie horror film market) in a cowl and cape in her living room, and does she run out the door, which is rightthere? No, she runs into the kitchen to grab a long knife, high-tails it up the stairs, and then takes a pill and promptly goes to sleep to have a sex dream about her husband and another woman. In the morning light, does she contact the police? No, she goes on with her day calmly and has some muffins with Eliza. Whaaaaaaaaaaa?!?
I won’t go into much more of the story, as this is all still the first act, which ends with the introduction of Eliza’s niece, Autumn (Danish actress Annemijn Nieuwkoop, who also goes by Anne Leigh Cooper), who is obsessed with Harrison (director Chris Majors), the archeologist who used to own the joint.
There are some definite issues with the story, which is quite lackadaisical in its approach. I mean, if you need to grab a kitchen knife two nights in a row (your first two nights) – once because of the big dude and another after a nekkid woman (Victoria Johnstone) rises from the lake and goes into your house – and then you go speed upstairs and fall asleep after taking pills, rather than getting leaving the house – even after a kinder spirit tells you that you are in danger and to get out…twice – then it’s hard to feel some kind of empathy for that character.
It’s nice that the story tries to throw the “Is it real or in her head?” motif, which always is a fun twist. Here, we are given that by the appearance of Kate’s Pop (legendary Lance Henriksen, who pretty much sleepwalks through his one scene, and still manages to steal it), who wants her to come back to the farm because he thinks she needs help. Actually, what Kate needs is, well to be honest, acting lessons. This is Meredith’s (since both star/writer and director have the same last name, I will be impertinent and use the first) initial starring film role, and she does not seem to be up for the task. She looks cute in an everywoman kind of way with a smack of a Jane Alexander vibe, but her acting is, well, wooden. I’m betting she’d be fine in a best friend or neighbor role, but she cannot carry a film on her own at this point in her career. What I mean by that is that she looks like she is wincing when trying to emote, and you can almost see her thinking (i.e., pausing too long) between showing a feeling or speaking a line.
But she’s not the only one, to be fair. Most of the cast seems to be polar opposites in either being in a daze or a bit over the top, such as Nieuwkoop; though to be fair, the part written for her is as an avid fan of the previous owner who disappeared before she was even born, though she comes across more as a chipper and giddy teenaged-level cheerleader than a true scholarly researcher as she claims. Again, you can tell from the dialog part of this is definitely how the role was designed. She’s kind of the reverse of Henriksen’s underplayed role. I do have to say, that despite the “dear” business, Baker comes off the most competent (and I’m not saying that because she’s exactly two days older than me), although the role itself is clichéd.
There are few surprises in the story, including the conclusion, but for me the biggest problem here is in the editing of the text. I’ve said this a number of times regarding other films as well: rather than being well over an hour and a half, it would have behooved the writer and director to narrow it down to about 80 minutes. Considering the long stretches where nothing really important to the story happens, this could have been done with no ill effect on the plotline (please, if you can’t do text chopping, give your ego a rest and call in someone who can!). Yet with all that extra time, there are still plot questions that arise that haven’t been answered.
For example, if you’re dealing with an eternal ancient Egyptian underworld/eitherworld, why are the guardians/demons dressed in modern clothing, rather than galabeyas at the least? I mean, I have my own from when I visited Egypt back in ’93, so shouldn’t the snake-eyed guardians of that place have them as well? Also, on a feminist perspective, considering this was written by a woman, why is the only nude scene a woman, and not including Kate’s husband? These were just two of the many questions that ran through my head during watching the film.
The only DVD extras are chapters and English Captions (always a fave of mine). And yet, the nagging question that remains at the end is, surprising to me as hopeful, will there be a sequel called The Eerie Canal?