By Scott Dorward
Lake Bodom (Finland, 2016)
This year, I’ve messed up a little with my October Horror Movie Challenge. Given the number of countries producing exciting horror, I seem to have chosen too many American films. Lake Bodom (released in some markets simply as Bodom) is a late attempt to at least partly rectify this. Also, the idea of a Finnish slasher film simply appeals to me. In fact, I think I’ve only seen one Finnish horror film before. Time to double that number!
You all know the story, right? A group of teenagers go camping in the woods and some unseen maniac picks them off one by one. Well, this isn’t that film. Except it is. But, really, it isn’t.
Nerdy teenager Atte is obsessed with the 1960 Lake Bodom murders. He hits upon the scheme of solving the crime by re-enacting it. This requires a camping trip to the murder site with his friend Elias, tricking a couple of girls they know — Nora and Ida — into accompanying them.
Nora, in turn, has to lie to her parents to go on the trip. A few months ago, someone posted nude pictures of Nora online. Despite her protestations, her parents blame her for this and have grounded her since.
Of course, the camping trip goes horribly wrong. The teens find themselves stalked by an unseen presence and the bodies begin to pile up. Is the original killer still alive and active after all these years? What motivations does everyone really have for going on this trip? And who took those pictures of Nora anyway?
As the synopsis touches upon, Lake Bodom is inspired by a notorious set of unsolved murders that occurred in 1960. While the film doesn’t tackle these murders head-on, they are important to the set-up and resolution of the story. That said, the filmmakers, quite rightly, have no expectation that the audience be familiar with these crimes. They are largely unknown outside Finland. The film provides enough context to be satisfying. Still, reading the Wikipedia article about the murders does provide some deeper appreciation.
In this respect, Lake Bodom makes an interesting contrast to Sator. The enjoyment of each is enhanced by knowing their context, but not knowing it made Sator almost impossible to for me to engage with. For all its deep roots, Lake Bodom is a far more accessible film.
I was surprised, looking at a map, at how close Lake Bodom is to Helsinki. The film makes it look like remote woodland, deep in the countryside. In reality, it’s maybe 10 minutes’ walk from the nearest housing estate. Not quite the untamed wilderness we’re led to believe.
Almost everything about Lake Bodom is a pleasant surprise. The film sets you up to expect a traditional slasher yarn. While there are definitely elements of this, they’re married to a smart, inventive thriller. Once the film picks up speed, we’re hit with one revelation after another. Some reveals are more obvious than others, but I did find myself blindsided more than once.
It does take some time for Lake Bodom to hit full steam. The first half is largely spent setting up the premise and characters. That said, this neither feels dull nor like wasted time. It is important that we understand both, and the pieces are put into place entertainingly, sowing seeds of mystery and intrigue. And when the film takes off, there is no shortage of blood, excitement and horror. Definitely worth a watch if you want something to get the adrenaline pumping.
The October Horror Movie Challenge
Please do join in and share your own thoughts with us about this or any other films as the month goes on. You can usually find us on Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, Discord, or lurking in the dark corners of your home.
If you would like to play along at home, my provisional selections are:
- Possessor (2020)
- The Boogey Man (1980)
- Jakob’s Wife (2021)
- The Queen of Black Magic (2019)
- Cold Hell (2017)
- Seance (2021)
- The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane (1976)
- Dachra (2018)
- Isle of the Dead (1945)
- After Midnight (2019)
- The Baby (1973)
- Hagazussa (2017)
- Frightmare (1974)
- The Eyes of My Mother (2016)
- Dave Made a Maze (2017)
- Raw (2016)
- The Old Ways (2020)
- Terror Train (1980)
- mon mon mon MONSTERS (2017)
- Sator (2019)
- Don’t Torture a Duckling (1972)
- The Lighthouse (2019)
- Anything For Jackson (2020)
- Warning: Do Not Play (Amjeon) (2019)
- Only Lovers Left Alive (2013)
- The Field Guide to Evil (2019)
- A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014)
- The Wizard of Gore (1970)
- Fingers (2019)
- Lake Bodom (2016)
- Island of Lost Souls (1932)
A Final Note
If you have been enticed here by these posts, please do look around at some of our other film reviews. We also have a podcast, called The Good Friends of Jackson Elias, which occasionally covers horror films. If this appeals, you might want to check out some of the following episodes.
- The Changeling
- The Endless
- Our favourite Cthulhu Mythos media
- The Fly
- A Dark Song
- The Thing
- The Ritual
- The Wicker Man
- The Stone Tape
- Event Horizon
- The Witch
- INLAND EMPIRE
- Nightbreed and Lord of Illusions
- Maléfique and The Ninth Gate
- Re-Animator and From Beyond
- Repulsion and The Babdook
- Man Bites Dog, Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon and S&man
- A selection of weird films
- David Cronenberg
- The films that scared us most
If you dig through the archives, you will also find episodes about a wide variety of horror stories and games. Happy nightmares!