The Lake (2022) Review
The Lake (บึงกาฬ), a new kaiju film from Thailand, isn’t shy about showing off its monster. Within the first five minutes, we see its back breaking the water’s surface and gliding along like a giant crocodile. Then we see the full creature as it comes ashore, and we get a good look at it. But that’s just a teaser.
A few minutes later we see a smaller version of the creature ripping its way through a group of villagers, using its jaws and tail to deadly effect. Keng (Thanachat Tunyachat) and his sister Lin (Sushar Manaying, Bangkok Assassins, Boss and Me) survive the attack, although the creature manages to wound Keng.
Elsewhere, James (Theerapat Sajakul, 13 lives, The Maid), a police inspector, is having lunch at his wife’s grave and complaining to her about how rebellious their daughter Pam (Supansa Wedkama) has become when he gets a call. There’s been another attack, this one at a playground.
For its first half-hour, The Lake keeps up a good, and bloody, pace as the creatures seem to be appearing everywhere, leaving a trail of destruction and bodies in their wake. These scenes were obviously influenced by Bong Joon Ho’s The Host but are staged effectively enough that we can overlook it. The effects, a mix of animatronics, man in a suit effects and CGI are all better than average as well.
Unfortunately, once the pace starts to slow, The Lake’s script starts to display some questionable plotting. Most notably, after Pam gets suspended, James, decides that rather than drop her off at home, he’ll take her with him as he chases the creature. That’s after he’s seen what it can do to people. Meanwhile, at the hospital, everyone is happy that Keng is alert and seems to have recovered. So happy, they don’t notice he’s starting to transform into something not quite human.
The subtitles don’t help matters either. They’re extremely clunky and feel more like a dictionary translation than something done by someone who actually speaks English. There are also moments where the dialogue itself is unintentionally funny, such as a police dispatcher making The Inspector apologize for being rude before she’ll tell him the location of the creature’s latest attack.
After bogging down in its subplots, The Lake finally gets back to business with a Jurassic Park inspired moment as the kaiju sized mother creature comes looking for its missing family. It’s nothing we haven’t seen before in the likes of Gorgo and its Japanese knockoff Gappa: The Triphibian Monster aka Monster from a Prehistoric Planet. And just as it seems like it’s about to go out in the destructive rampage we’ve been waiting for, the film just sort of fizzles out. A “five years later” coda that sets up a sequel doesn’t help matters, either.
Writer Lee Thongkham (The Last One, Tears of Remedy) and co-director Aqing Xu squander an excellent beginning and production values on a plot that loses itself in domestic subplots involving barely developed characters. I don’t think James is referred to by name, just as “Inspector”, during the film and the extent of his and his daughter’s backstory is the fact his wife died. There’s also a rather ugly, moralistic tone concerning who lives and dies among the main characters that put me off.
I was hoping for something to hold me over until the next Godzilla film, but The Lake fails to live up to its prerelease hype and anticipation. It does have a few good scenes and interesting ideas, but they’re not worth putting up with the rest of the film to see.
Epic Pictures released The Lake to select theatres on March 10th. It’s currently available on VOD and Digital Platforms, Blu-rays will arrive on May 16th. If you’re looking for something a bit more monstrous, FilmTagger can suggest some titles.