Hey, happy Friday the 13th, everyone! Don't worry, despite the fact that nearly every entry in that storied franchise appeared on the big ol' list back in 2020, I'm not going to discuss any of the antics of Jason or Pamela or Roy today. Lawd knows I've talked and written and drawn more about it than any one simple human probably should. But still, today is a slasher high holiday, is it not? So I got out my oversized novelty magnifying glass (that is usually reserved for my detective work) and scoured the aforementioned list until a slasher I've never seen caught my eye, and that slasher is...
Widely considered one of the worst slasher films of all time, I had to give Blood Lake a chance and try to figure out what one brave citizen-reader might love about it enough to call it a favorite horror movie.
Ah, 1987. It was a time of tennis sweaters, Swatches, and barely-there muscle tees. It was not a time for slashers, as the heyday was well in the rearview mirror and the subgenre was drowning in the dregs. But "heyday"s and the such have never stopped anyone with a dream, and history has proven that there are countless people out there whose dream it is to make a slasher movie--especially people who have access to a camcorder.
Yes, Blood Lake is perhaps the quintessential shot-on-video slasher flick, filmed by a group of mostly-friends who basically said "Hey, want to make a horror movie?" while on vacation. Knowing that, you mostly know what you're going to get. Perhaps you will be more amenable to its charms if you've made one of these movies yourself, or if you're an SOV enthusiast. Even so, you might find that Blood Lake will truly test your mettle as you are pushed to the brink with how much padding you can endure.
That said, we do get a delightful kill in the first minute of the film, when our killer Jed (Tiny Frazier), sporting his signature look of tucking one pant leg into his cowboy boot (talk about iconic!), walks up to a gardener whilst brandishing a knife. The gardener says "I just work here," to which Jed replies "That's good enough for me!" and then stabs him. All this before the credits!
Credits, I might add, that are accompanied by the mild hair metal stylings of an Oklahoma-local group called Voyager. Further, the credits are in the Garfield font and no matter how many sins Blood Lake might commit, I cannot and will not be mad at a horror movie that uses the Garfield font for its opening and closing credits.
That there boss as hell t-top Firebird is driven by Mike (Doug Barry, who also wrote Blood Lake) (yes, Blood Lake had a writer), and his precious cargo includes not only that powerboat but also his girlfriend Becky, another couple (Kim and Bryan), tween girl Susan, and Mike's tween brother, THEEE real star of this show, Li'l Tony. Li'l Tony is the mulleted, punk-ass, misogynist, virgin sex pest 12-year-old who will delight you with lines like "Hey Mike, are you gonna be a butthole this weekend, or are you gonna let me drink?" I wish Li'l Tony was in every movie, horror or otherwise.
This gang is headed to Becky's family's house (aka the family house of lead actress Angela Darter) for a weekend of the kinds of things that slasher movie characters get up to on their weekend getaways. But here's where Blood Lake differs from movies with, you know, actual budgets and production companies and actors: rather than actually doing the sex, they just talk about the sex they are gonna do. They do "party," by which I mean we watch them play a game of Quarters in real time as most of them turn down the joint being passed around, and one person "chugs" a third of a beer. It is a very long scene.
During the day, in another scene that is very long and then you think it's over and then it continues for a lot more time, the gang--joined now by a couple of local fellows--goes water skiing. This interminable passage is accompanied by a Voyager track, one whose sick guitar riffs and repeated cries of "feelin' freeeeeee!" will likely be stuck in your head for a while. I'm not sure whether or not that is a complaint, or if any of this is a complaint, really, because somehow--despite my brain rationally recognizing that I was mired in abject tedium--I was under the spell of Blood Lake's very distinct charms.
While watching Blood Lake, you would not be remiss if you found yourself wondering if that pre-credits kill was the only kill in the film. But lo! about an hour in, Jed makes his move. We get the de rigueur killer POV shot as he stalks his victims, but Jed-vision is red. Is this meant to imply that Jed is a Terminator? Or he is supernatural? Or is he literally "seeing red" because he is so mad? Blood Lake leaves the interpretation up to your discretion, because director Tim Boggs refuses to spoon-feed his audience.
A couple of people end up stabbed, and the effects are about what you'd expect from a backyard slasher movie with a likely budget of "pizza for the cast."
What are Jed's motivations for turning Lake Cedar, Oklahoma into Blood Lake, Oklahoma? Well, it turns out that Becky's father bought that house from him but never paid for it, which makes perfect sense if you think about it. (Don't think about it.) I will leave the bizarre coda for those of you brave (or foolish) enough to endure Blood Lake on your own. No need to thank me! Your inevitable joy over experiencing Li'l Tony is thanks enough.
"Endure" really is the right word to use when it comes to this movie. It bears all the hallmarks of shot-on-video cinema: amateur acting, garbled sound, terrible effects, bad lighting, a dreadful pace, and on and on. But it's also true that "charming" is the right word to use for it, even if those charms will not be enough to carry it for the vast, vast majority of viewers (it definitely has that reputation I spoke of for a reason).
Maybe it's because it captures and exudes that feeling of "Anybody wanna make a movie?" to those of us who have done that very same thing. Maybe it's because this group of friends actually feels like a group of friends, unlike the friends in every other slasher movie. Maybe it's because there's what's gotta be the Oklahoma of it all, which means characters can be oddly, unfailingly polite with each other, shaking hands and thanking a host for having them over to party. Maybe it's because characters will say things like "We shouldn't be fishing. We should be diving--muff diving!" but it's practically a PG-13 movie at best.
Maybe it's because Li'l Tony.
So, fair warning to those of you who may want to give it a go, you may regret that choice and every choice you ever made that led you to that moment. But to the reader who christened Blood Lake a favorite: you are seen. I see you. But as to why my POV is red, you'll never know!