Named for a popular vacation destination, The Land of Blue Lakes claims to be the first Latvian found footage film. Having seen films from its neighbours Estonia (Kratt, November) and Russia (Dead Mountain, Coma) I decided to see what it had to offer.
The Land of Blue Lakes opens with the standard text telling us how the people in the film never returned from their trip, leaving only this footage behind. In this case, what we are about to see was found on the dark web, edited by whoever uploaded it.
The film follows the most basic of found footage plots as we follow five young people into the wilderness. In this case, it’s a group of kayakers, Artur (Arturs Latkovskis), Veronika (Veronika Rumjanceva), Alina (Alina Sedova), Vlad (Vladislavs Filipovs) and Edgars (Edgars Jurgelans). Their plan is to paddle through a series of interconnected lakes.
Back in pre-Christian times, these lakes were home to pagan tribes that practiced human sacrifices which gives their film some backstory. Unfortunately, as they get deeper into the wilderness they find signs that the descendants of those tribes might still be around.
While I was expecting something like The Latvian Witch Project, The Land of Blue Lakes actually has more in common with the Swedish found footage effort Documenting the Witch Path for much of its running time. How much you like the film will probably come down to how much you like scenic waterways and whether or not you find the characters annoying or not. Because much of The Land of Blue Lakes consists of them kayaking through the lakes or camping beside them and goofing off.
Thankfully, after the first few minutes where they did get on my nerves quickly, The Land of Blue Lakes’ kayakers are relatively likable and don’t do anything that makes you think that they’re trying to get themselves killed. Something I can’t say for the characters in a lot of similar films. Also, apart from the editing, there’s nothing that feels out of place with the footage either. There’s no musical score and no scenes where you wonder who shot it.
On the other hand, there are a few creepy scenes and hints that something is in the woods, but for the most part, it’s all very laid back. It wasn’t until around thirty-five minutes into the film’s seventy-three-minute length that there was anything to really creep me out. Which is authentic I suppose, if they ran into creepy stuff right away they’d probably paddle back to the dock and stay there.
But most of us don’t watch films like The Land of Blue Lakes to see people acting rationally, do we? As long as they’re not acting like total idiots we’re good with it, so the lack of scares will probably leave a lot of viewers feeling restless. Especially since the film is in Latvian with subtitles so you have to pay attention and read all the less than thrilling dialogue.
Obviously, if you’re a fan of this kind of bare-bones found footage film then what I’m saying sounds like a recommendation, and please take it as such. But the genre has evolved beyond sixty minutes of camping followed by ten minutes of everyone getting killed. For myself, I wasn’t actually bored but The Land of Blue Lakes never grabbed me the way films like The Fear Footage or Red Woods did either. I think many other viewers may feel the same way too. I suspect a lot of other viewers will have the same reaction.
The Land of Blue Lakes is available to stream, you can check its Facebook page for more information.