In the spirit of Grindhouse, Manborg and Turbo Kid, this fifty-one-minute pastiche from the Ravacon Collective – directors Christopher Phelps and Maxin Van Scoy, writers Ryan Scott Fitzgerald and Stephen Phelps, and the cast – homages the video schlock of the ‘80s, or more specifically the drive-in schlock of the ‘70s that got released on video in the ‘80s. Complete with trailers for a gory giallo (Quando il Fiume Scorre Rosso aka When the River Runs Red) and the eco-horror Harvest Man, a commercial for Wolf White beer, tracking marks and taped-over non sequitur glitches, this has the look – although not the aspect ratio – of bygone VHS product and even runs to such details as a main attraction which gives its title differently in opening (Welcome to Lake Nowhere) and closing (Lake Nowhere) credits. You can bet the girl on the box wasn’t in the film either.
Obviously made with a lot of heart and ingenuity on a limited budget, this doesn’t outwear its welcome and manages to segue from deadpan imitation of amiable rubbish into genuine creepiness for its surprisingly low-key finale. Though special billing promises ‘Matthew Howk as the Masked Maniac’, this isn’t entirely a slasher film parody as nine young folks head out to a cabin by a lake for a weekend of dope, sex, playing cards and outdoor activities … only to be assailed by contagious insanity, a possible ghost from a nearby graveyard, the lingering influence of Let’s Scare Jessica to Death (which grows every year) and a familiar clumsiness which keeps leading them back into the path of a descending axe or a throttling washing-line. The dog dies first and gets eaten.
While there are plenty of vintage precedents for stories like this, it also feels a little like a premake of Cabin Fever – which adds to the snake-swallowing-itself cycle of pastiche, imitation, remake and homage. There are a few decent, near-straight shocks – just as we assume the Masked Maniac is going to be the main menace, the lad who took a skinny dip (Nathan Andrew Wright) turns up zombie pale (and full-frontal naked). He eats the dog, then batters Alexis (Laura Hajek), the most sensitive girl, against the floor. She is them mummy-bandaged and out of it as her friends get disembowelled, decapitated, macheted, chewed or just generally killed – with sloppy practical effects and the sort of rich scarlet blood and butcher leftovers favoured by H.G. Lewis and his imitators. Bonnie (Wray Villanova), who takes wood-chopping lessons early on, seems to be set up as the final girl, but the conventions take a beating in the last reel … which makes the Masked Maniac’s m.o. creepier as he doles out coins to pay the ferryman and conducts a private ritual on the lake shore.