Saturday, November 19, 2016

In short: Lake Nowhere (2014)

Usually, if something is described with the word “retro” and praised for its particularly effective mimicry, I’m out. I’m a big fan of media and art taking generally discarded approaches from the past and using them as a starting point for something new; imitating the surface values of the past alone just doesn’t interest me much as a viewer, though not quite as little as ironic goofing off about these values does.

Fortunately, the short – with fake trailers bringing it to the length of a very long short - Lake Nowhere – as directed by Christopher Phelps and Maxim Van Scoy – isn’t only an excursion into mimicry. It does indeed get the colours, the music, the actors and the spirit of locally produced low budget slashers of a very specific point in time quite right but it also understands that part of the pull of the best of these films was their strangeness – sometimes even Weirdness – a fiercely individual quality you can’t copy but must reach all by yourself. Where lesser films of this kind at best manage a surface level imitation of the dream (well, nightmare) logic of their models that consequently only reads as randomness, Lake Nowhere actually finds a strangeness all of its own that turns what could be an exercise in goofy irony (though there is of course irony here, especially in the fake trailers before the main short feature) into a film I found rather special, and at times surprising.

There are a lot of clever touches besides the Weirdness, too. The film gets, for example, a lot of mileage out of at the surface level imitating films that were often technically primitive but then using these “primitive” visual methods in clever, thoughtful ways that increase the film’s mood of strangeness in exceedingly clever ways, thereby turning surface imitation into an actual element of style.

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