Review: Lake of the Dead

Lake of the Dead is a mystery-crime-horror movie from 1958 that has a unique position in Norwegian cinema. Not only was it a major success and the first successfull Norwegian movie in the 50s (after a recession in movie making the entire decade), it is also one of few horror/suspense/fantasy movies made here, and possibly the first.

It tells the tale of a group of young urban friends who travel to the country in order to spend a few relaxing days in a cabin out in the woods. Once they arrive, the brother (who had gone to the cabin some time before) of one of the women appears to have disappeared. By analyzing signs they start to suspect that something criminal or evil has happened to him. A local legend claims that a one-legged man who died 100 years ago still roams the woods and hypnotizes people to drown themselves in a small lake. The group tries to solve the case about their friend as well as finding out more about the legend.

If you look away from the rather stiff and rigid acting which is always the case with Norwegian actors due to their experience from the theatre stage, this movie is rather good, in spite of its age. Granted, it is not a movie experience that can be measured with anything being made today, but the flow and atmosphere is tingling. A movie from 1958 will look very dated, especially a Norwegian one, even if Lake of the Dead was the first Norwegian movie filmed in the then new scope format (widescreen). It was a current and modern movie 50+ years ago. The book has dated much less of course. But since the movie has the ability to make you interested, it’s age doesn’t matter.

It also sticks close to the book it is based on (which I have read only a couple of months ago), without any beating about the bush. Almost every line and shot helps moving the movie forward. That is rare to see even today. I like this in movies as well as in books.

Lake of the Dead is more about mysteries than straight horror. But we don’t know if it’s mysteries in an ill person’s mind or supernatural events – until the last five minutes. Unless you are very good at putting together clues. In this regard the movie has alot in common with the classic crime stories of Agatha Christie. And I think it might be slightly inspired by The Hound of Baskerville, a Sherlock Holmes novel. In return, I think that Lake of the Dead might have inspired the Evil Dead movies. There are several similarities. In Lake of the Dead there are no zombies, but there is a legend, a one-legged crow and the lake itself that easily could have been a murderer. The biggest striking similarity is of course the group of young people on a trip to a remote cabin. Well, I don’t think Sam Raimi ever saw Lake of the Dead. But he could have.

I don’t recommend this movie to everyone. Only if you have a specific interest in Scandinavian or old cinema. But for what it is, it is more than OK.

Directors: Kåre Bergstrøm & Edith Carlmar

Norway, 1958

Rated 5 of 10.

Reviewed by Marie H.

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