Stanley: I’m writing a screenplay for a bad movie. ^ Friend: How do you know it’s bad if you’re still writing it? ^ Stanley: Well, they don’t make good movies anymore.
There sure are a lot of movies about writers. Is it their attempt to dramatically recast their place in the world or do they just write what they know? It’s why stand up comics all have routines about airports. The really talented ones have imaginations. Judd Nelson in perhaps his most restrained performance ever plays Stanley Caldwell, one of the poor hacks who don’t.
Somewhere, Stanley got stuck looking for new material and decided to become a serial killer to glean precious information for his latest screenplay Garden of Flesh. All in all beautiful women mostly have it made in life with of course being the target of serial killers being one of the rare drawbacks. In general, Stanley is so smug he has probably seen Rope a hundred times, but he apparently never understood the ending. He’s constantly making cute little puns about his killing spree in his every day conversations, but people think he’s just eccentric and not dangerous.
Stanley captures his women by slamming on the breaks of his van right in front of his victim’s speeding cars. For some reason, even though Stanley’s done this at least twenty or so times there is never any damage to the back of his vehicle. Inside the van is a police yellow tape that says “I’m the one your mother warned you about.”
Stanley then takes his prey home, peeks at them through a two way mirror for a couple of days, ties them to anchors, and dumps their bodies into a lake. Each day he swims out and hangs out with his victims for a couple of hours. Essentially, he plays with them like his own personal Barbie collection.
The modern slasher movie has hit a bit of a lull. The first Scream movie reinvigorated the genre by making fun of the typical slasher movie conventions. Ever since Scream people stopped making just slasher movies and started making slasher movies that were so self aware that they were actually really just a comment on slasher movies. Enough already. Where are the guys who will actually just come out and admit that they are making a slasher movie? Cabin in the Lake thinks it’s The Player, but it’s really just a movie with a new stylish way for a deranged man to collect and dispose of bodies. Thus act one is always pretty entertaining, but after we check out Judd arranging his underwater playpen it turns out to be just another movie that hasn’t found anywhere new to go.
Here is my favorite part of the movie in all its absurdity. One night the Police Deputy and his film makeup buddies go out into the middle of the gigantic lake to check out equipment for of all things, the script Caldwell is writing. They of course pick the spot right above Judd’s garden. For some reason not noticing their boat, Judd tosses his last victim (Hedy Buress) right on top of them. Having saved the victim, the Deputy and his make up pals create a dummy likeness of the girl with a camera in her eye so that when Judd comes to hang in his Garden the next day they will be able to identify and capture him. Their plan works right up until the time that they realize that all they can see is a guy in scuba equipment, which makes identifying people really hard. What did they expect to see down there? What they should have done was wire the dummy with explosives and take the guy out by remote control! Similar nonsense follows with similar believability.
I think the problem is that the film’s writer didn’t have the same zest for his work that his main character did. Nelson is supposed to be killing these girls so that he can come up with cool original dialogue for his screenplay, but in this movie there never actually is any. Nelson and Buress are supposed to have a Hannibal Lector Clarice Starling thing going on, but there’s no real evidence of it except in the score. Cabin by the Lake is really more of a Bazooka Joe bubble gum comic strip than it is any real meditation on writing, killing, or for that matter gardening.

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