A couple and their young daughter move into a lake house that remained unsold due to the brutal, ritualistic murder of a family years ago. Soon, they realize that a dormant evil has awakened, a possessive force that has preyed on unsuspecting families like theirs for centuries.
Here at Film Threat, we are the advocate for indie filmmaking. The very of the site indicates a threat to convention and normalcy. We fancy ourselves an independent voice in a sea of talking heads. Independent films are, by definition, on their own, without the support of an army of publicists, countless assistant directors, a well-stocked craft services table, and most importantly (but not all importantly) a budget. We take no pleasure in berating the sincere attempts to entertain. So it is with hesitation that we would call House on Elm Lake a failure. It’s more like a very sincere failure.
Opening on a tense scene, House on Elm Lake grabs us right away. Elliot (Tony Manders) has his wife Miranda (Kate Lush) and son Smithy (Oliver Ebsworth) tied up. He begins to stab the boy repeatedly and the mother breaks loose to run for safety. An otherworldly power has consumed this man, driving him to the savage act of murder of his wife and son.
“…an otherworldly power has consumed this man, driving him to the savage act of murder of his wife and son.”
Flash forward: Eric (Andrew Hollingworth), Hayley (Becca Hirani) and their daughter Penny (Faye Goodwin) arrive at the same house on the lake. Elm Lake to be precise. They are coming for an extended stay in the picturesque lakeside home and they immediately slip into tranquility mode. Penny picks her room, Hayley and Eric find time to get it on, and everyone seems to be perfectly happy. That is until the same spirit that drove Elliot to kill his family begins to take on Eric as a new host.
Hayley’s friend Crystal (Lorena Andrea) comes for a visit and things begin to seem off. Little Penny has quickly come down ill, and a visit from local vicar Julie (Tara MacGowran) only cements the notion that there is something evil afoot. You can probably see where this is headed but I will spell it out. The spirit is coming from inside the house!
The script from Shannon Holiday, co-written by director Klass, has a pretty base idea going. An evil force continues to wreak havoc on any silly mortals that decide to take up residence, even if briefly, in the House on Elm Lake. This begs the question: Doesn’t England have a lemon law? I mean, if a man brutally murders his family inside a home, doesn’t that have to be disclosed to the next people to move in? I might be getting bogged down in the details but it’s a thought. Further on that notion, let’s assume the new family had no entitlement to the info. Certainly, the ghosts of the murdered, along with the wrongdoer himself who keep appearing, might clue them in on the fact that they should GTFO.
“…if a man brutally murders his family inside a home, doesn’t that have to be disclosed to the next owners?”
On the positive end of things, there is some nice photography here from Edward Lui is a little indulgent with color, but it is always clean and well composed. Stewart Dugdale’s sound work is also something that should get him another gig fast, as it is nice work.
Hollingworth is fine as Eric, but this movie belongs to Hirani as the confused, terrified spouse. Aside from the other strong female performance from MacGowran, everyone else is pretty much bad. Some lines are delivered with a conviction that couldn’t convince even the most eager viewers.
It is clear that effort went into the making of House on Elm Lake. The blood and gore effects are acceptable, the story could have only used a few more rewrites, and the cast is strong where it needs to be. Yet it is so close to being watchable that it is almost a crime that it falls short.
House on Elm Lake (2018) Directed by James Klass. Written by Shannon Holiday, James Klass. Starring Becca Hirani, Andrew Hollingworth, Faye Goodwin, Lorena Andrea, Tara MacGowran, and Oliver Ebsworth.
House on Elm Lake gets two stars **
Norm’s Rating System: ****(GREAT) ***(Good) **(Ok) *(Awful)