Though there is much about this terror in the woods horror fare that is derivative, Sam’s Lake gets points for introducing a novel notion to the annals of spooky cinema. And that’s the idea of DNA being a genetic transporter, not just of physical characteristics like hairy humans with gills, but relatively invisible mental throwbacks as well, meaning primitive animal brain behavior. Which might explain the inexplicable, when it comes to phenomena like serial killers and/or cannibalizers, take your pick, who did not have bad childhoods.
First time helmer Andrew Christopher Erin exhibits promise here as a skilled storyteller in building pungent, creepy atmosphere and more than just cookie cutter cardboard victims and villains. Fay Masterson is Sam, a cheerful young woman driving a bunch of gabby friends up to her family cabin in the remote woods, on the anniversary of her dad’s death there in a hunting accident. Before his death, her father named a nearby lake after her.
Following some playful recreational down time in the sun, Sam and a moody childhood pal Jesse (William Gregory Lee) who turns up, suggest a night visit to a reputed haunted house, where years earlier, a deranged youth murdered his entire family. And local lore has it that his ghost returns every year to randomly kill again. To say more would spoil the demented proceedings, but suffice it to say that with friends like these…
Erin’s got plenty of effective nerve jangling carnage on the menu, though he keeps most of it sufficiently subtle and tasteful, if those are suitably chosen words for what’s in store. And the females, whether harboring good or bad intentions, tend to rise above the usual scream queen hottie in distress relegated roles, to flex their repertoire of rough stuff too.
Lionsgate Home Entertainment
2 1/2 stars
DVD Features: Keep Case; Widescreen; Spanish Subtitles.