Review: The Lake

YSTV and York Student Cinema come together to show the thrilling tale of a group of York students who are thrown into a world of love, fear and paranoia after a mysterious encounter with the campus lake, says

★★★★☆

Image: YSTV

Image: YSTV

We have all thought that there’s something up with the lake on campus, right? Serving as a home to hordes of geese, which are of course the epitome of all evil, there is just something about those murky waters that promises death and demise. Okay maybe that isn’t the first thing that we all think of, but it certainly makes for an exciting premise for this entirely student-produced film.

The Lake tells the story of a group of housemates who on one fateful evening, or a completely un-fateful evening if you ask Callum, have a bizarre encounter with the campus lake, resulting in one of their deaths. From here, the remaining housemates descend into a paranoid frenzy of accusation and denial, challenging one another’s relationships and tearing the house apart from within.

This is an interesting concept for a film shot and produced entirely in York and a clever way of handling the limited means of a student production. With references to Nisa, The Courtyard and a hilarious utilisation of the peculiar relationship between students and the campus waterfowl, the student experience at the University of York can be felt coursing through The Lake’s veins.

The camera work was really impressive and the editing was smooth and expertly crafted. The camera’s perspective was sufficiently varied and shots transitioned organically between one another. Close-ups, for example, were well utilised on a number of occasions without ever feeling forced or gratuitous, as these kind of shots can very easily become.

The lighting was also particularly impressive as it was sharp and well suited to producing the desired atmosphere for each scene, with little to no notable exceptions. It was something that particular struck me during the police interview scenes, but it also was consistently well maintained throughout the rest of the film.

My only technical complaint about The Lake might that the sound was a little off at points, with microphones being scuffed occasionally and dialogue being somewhat difficult to understand due to issues such as the wind. However, it is worth reiterating that this was indeed a student production done on an entirely voluntary basis and hence it should be entirely absolved of any criticism on the basis of technical limitation. For the most part the sound was good and again, well edited.

All of the performances in the film were good, with John Chisham as Cal standing out in particular. His characterisation and role within the film certainly aid this point, but it must be said that he portrayed the trauma and anxiousness that one might feel under such peculiar circumstances most convincingly. However, as Lucas (Anatoly Lee) said, “everybody handles loss differently” and it is worth noting that each character had their own unique personality that naturally fed into their own responses. Outside of the group of housemates, Alex Jee also delivered some good scenes as the police officer and displayed some level of depth.

What is particularly interesting about The Lake is its plot, especially within the last third of the film. At first the idea of a love triangle was a little off-putting, as it is somewhat of an overdone cliché within film and television, but as the film progressed and began integrating more and more of the housemates within this complicated relationship web, it became more intriguing.

The final few scenes were suitably complex and sinister for the film’s purpose, even if they were also a little confusing. Verity (Bethany Evans) and her role in the death of Eve (Nell Walker) felt like it might have benefited from being developed further, since her motivations, aside from reacting to her religious conservative parents’  homophobia in some regard, seemed a little unclear. Furthermore, the very nature of what went down at the lake still rings confusingly in my head, but that would seem to have been the desired effect. The Lake is a psychological thriller after all. If all of the pieces fitted together smoothly without complication, it wouldn’t play over your mind in the way that it should.

All in all, The Lake does really well for what it is: a student production made in order to raise money for the MS Society in York. This is a highly worthy cause and YSTV and York Student Cinema should be applauded for their efforts. I hope that they have raised plenty of money from the evening and would like to thank them for inviting me along.

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