Movie Review: Young Norwegians take a dip in the “Lake of Death (De dødes tjern)”

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Lake of Death (De dødes tjern)” is a mildly creepy Norwegian thriller about a “haunted” lake and a young woman (Iben Akerlie) haunted by guilt over her long-missing twin brother.

It’s built on horror conventions that go back to Edgar Allan Poe, and worn out by every “Friday the 13th” variation since. But this time, it’s five good looking young Norwegians who head to the cabin in the woods to face the strange goings-on, bumps in the night, getting yanked under the water by “something” while swimming, visions of the missing brother and “Wait, who made us all breakfast?”

One of them, Bernhard (Jakob Schøyen Andersen) is a horror/ghost story podcaster, gathering audio on the legends of this lake, joking around with “Cabin Fever,” “Evil Dead” and a certain unfinished “Project” about an American witch movie references, and playing scary tricks on his fellow cabin campers.

And when they unwind, the kids rock out to “Cities on Flame With Rock and Roll,” because “Don’t Fear the Reaper” is entirely too on-the-nose for anybody to get away with these days.

There’s a dog, because of course there is.

“Anybody seen Totto?”

The foreshadowing is trifle obvious. Even the finale is guessable. But of course there are twists, a mild chill here and there, and not just from the lower depths of the lake in question.

“They say it’s BOTTOMless!”

Oslo-based writer-director Nini Bull Rabsahm has reimagined a haunted lake novel by André Bjerke, previously filmed in 1958.  She has a little fun with the conventions she’s working with. Just not enough.

Akerlie makes a properly spooked heroine, seeing black water coming out of the tap, bleeding out of walls and spat out of her friends — even if they can’t see it. Akerlie gives us equal measures of guilt and resignation. Whatever is going on, it’s everybody ELSE who is doing most of the freaking out about the “Lake of Death.”

She keeps seeing images of her brother (Patrick Walshe McBride, not a Scandinavian so we’ll make him deaf-mute to save on language lessons).

The setting and cast make this pleasant enough to sit through, if a bit of a yawner. Ms. Robsahm must have realized that if we “Don’t Fear the Reaper,” there’s really not much point.

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Cast:  Iben Akerlie  Patrick Walshe McBride, Jakob Schøyen Andersen, Elias Munk, Jonathan Harboe, Ulric von der Esch and Sophie Lie.

Credits: Written and directed by Nini Bull Robsahm, inspired by the 1958 film “Lake of the Dead” and the 1942 novel by  André Bjerke.   A Shudder release.

Running time: 1:34

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