I may have chosen Lake Artifact to watch for the most random reason in my movie-watching career. The stills I saw from the film were full of products from the Genesee Brewing Company. I hadn’t seen that name since I left Buffalo NY for the frozen tundra of Saskatchewan. So, in a fit of nostalgia, I gave it a watch. The results were actually better than a lot of my more rational choices.
We open with a double prologue. Paradox Lake, 1953 we see one man stalk another through the woods and beat him to death with a crowbar. He captures it all on camera. Then lets the camera record him lying down on the tracks as a train approaches. Jump to modern-day as an unseen film crew conducts interviews about the area and a local cult. It ends with one interview subject proclaiming “Back in October of 1953, it was a bloodbath”.
Cut to the main story. Kip (Chris Cimperman), Megan (Anna Shields), Grace (Catharine Daddario) and Thomas (Thomas Brazzle) head out for a booze-filled weekend at Lake Paradox. Their car breaks down on the way. A passing drifter also named Thomas (Dylan Grunn) gets it running again so they invite him along. The fact he has a case of Genny Cream Ale in his backpack is a bonus.
The first night is a drunken blast. In the morning Kip heads out to get food and more importantly, beer. Back at the cabin things are starting to get weird. A picture of the group, including both Thomas’s, turns up. But nobody remembers taking it. Or who could have taken it.
Another photo, (shades of Polaroid and Making Faces), mysteriously printed off of somebody’s camera reveals strange figures in the background. And Kip still hasn’t returned. But they’ve found an old man (John Willoughby Noble) who claims to be him. And then the Kip we know finally returns.
One of the characters “This is some crazy Twilight Zone, Stephen King, Black Mirror shit” and that’s pretty much on point. Lake Artifact is a wicked slice of updated Twilight Zone type mindfuckery. Roads turn into circles, strange figures are seen in the night. And people begin to act stranger sober than when they’re shitfaced.
Lake Artifact is sci-fi /horror that’s short on gore but long on ideas. The interview segments fill us in with details about the cult. However, that’s as much an interruption in the main story as it is a source of information. There also could have been more done with the identity of the interviewer. Writer/director Bruce Wemple (Altered Hours, Monstrous) leaves a few to many threads hanging. Whether by accident or as a starting place for a return visit to the lake I’m not sure. But I do wish more had been cleared up.
But overall Lake Artifact works as an exercise in weirdness. You have to pay attention and at times wait for some details to fill in, but it’s worth it.
Lake Artifact is available via Midnight Releasing.