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They say you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, and, as a rule, I certainly agree. But in the case of a DVD like Ghost Lake, my advice would be to ignore the cover altogether. At first glance, Ghost Lake looks to be a waterlogged and potentially gruesome zombie-fest like Zombie Lake or Wading Pool of the Damned, but ... no. There are a few stray zombies towards the end, but I preferred to focus on the insides of my eyelids by that point.
Pity poor Rebecca. While she's getting screwed in the back of a car, her parents are dropping dead thanks to a tragic gas leak. Becky decides to hightail it up to the old family cabin in an effort to get her head on straight, hang out with a hunky hitchhiker, re-evaluate her life, and get further screwed in front of a fireplace.
But talk about bad timing: seems that the local lake yields undead zombie beings every 13 years, and these goopy freaks need 13 bodies to satisfy their bloodlust. Toss in a whole bunch of bizarre dream sequences, otherworldly apparitions, confused hallucinations, and dangling plot threads, and you've got Ghost Lake, the movie that pales in comparison to its own rather slick DVD case.
The main problem is the same one that plagues hundreds of low-budget indie horror flicks: it's boring. And it's the non-stop, chatty kind of boring that somehow makes a 88-minute movie feel like 112. What? Ghost Lake actually is 112 minutes long? Now, that just makes no sense whatsoever. Some of the dialogue sequences run so damn long, you'll just want to get up and smack the television.
To his credit, I will give writer/director/editor/composer Jay Woelfel a nod: he's got a pretty good eye. In even its driest and least interesting moments, Ghost Lake is shot very well. Woelfel knows how to frame a shot with style - even if most of them run about 45% too long. The guy's a solid director; now all he needs are a crafty and concise co-writer and a more mercenary approach in the editing booth. Serious points for trying to create something atmospheric and a little more creative than your average Friday the 13th retread, but the only thing I found scary about Ghost Lake is how endlessly boring the whole thing was.
Video: It's a Widescreen Anamorphic transfer, which looks pretty darn good if you can overlook the grainy fuzz that permeates most of the nighttime sequences.
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 (or 2.0), which, along with the Anamorphic transfer, indicates a technical commitment to the DVD that, frankly, doesn't really help the movie all that much. To be fair, Woelfel writes some fairly moody tunes here and there, and they do add a nice touch to the generally drab proceedings.
Extras: Producer Johnnie Young, cinematographer Paul Deng, actors Tatum Adair, Gregory Lee Kenyon & Timothy Prindle, and writer/director Jay Woelfel present some interview segments and behind-the-scenes footage in a 22-minute featurette entitled "Labor of Love: The Making of Ghost Lake." Frankly after hearing the filmmakers talk about the production, I found myself wishing that I liked their movie. Oh well. You'll also find a collection of ten deleted scenes, which can be viewed with or without a director's commentary. The whole of Ghost Lake can also be played with a feature-length audio commentary by Mr. Woelfel.
Ghost Lake is well-shot and intermittently interesting horror potboiler that, ultimately, doesn't go much of anywhere ... and goes there slowly. Serious fans of the genre can feel free to ignore my own opinions and give the flick a rental for yourself. You just might dig it a whole lot more than I did. At the very least you can use it as a visual sleeping aid.