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House on Elm Lake - Movie Review

Movie Review

2 stars

So, what is needed to help differentiate a new cabin in the woods thriller from the scores of brilliant hits, near misses, and blatant misfires within an already over-saturated sub-genre? For starters, originality. Then we can begin to talk about the finer things that go on to define a film and stamp a filmmaker with a unique one-of-a kind style.

While House on Elm Lake certainly displays flashes of raw terror and even hits on some truly iconic horror moments, the glaring lack of anything new – in both script and technique – delivers the film its most significant blows.

That’s not to say that House on Elm Lake doesn’t have a place in the genre. It does. But there are just too many “seen that before” moments and not enough “well, that was cool” surprises to make it a strong recommend.

Sly tips of the hat to genre classics should be just that, sly. Used too often, those “homages” – no matter how clever – begin to lose value and just come off as gimmicky. And there are a lot of them at play in House on Elm Lake. Ouija boards, candle-lit churches, spooked psychics, crayon drawings by a disturbed child, a deranged adolescent only visible to other children, demonic voices crying “Get Out,” and even a mysterious handwritten journal bound with human skin all make familiar appearances in House on Elm Lake. But it is the naked old man (Tony Manders) with a demented past that is guaranteed to send shivers down your spine. Manders is truly terrifying in the character. But as effective as they are, his scenes could have been handled in a much more compelling manner. More on that in a bit.


"There are plenty of great horror moments in House on Elm Lake as well as enough in-your-face gore and truly ghoulish moments to spook the pants off even the most experienced horror fans."


The titular lake is the idyllic setting where recent parents Hayley (Becca Hirani) and Eric (Andrew Hollingworth) have decided to settle down with their young daughter Penny (Faye Goodwin) in a lakefront house that has been vacant for quite some time. But it is when we discover why the house has remained vacant and why they got such a great deal on it that things begin to get real. Very real.

Soon after moving in, Eric begins to withdraw from his loving wife and daughter before slowly descending into a satanic madness as he’s overcome by strange dreams and painful sores on his body. It is via a series of flashbacks that we learn of the bloody satanic murders at the hand of the aforementioned old man that took place inside the house years before. It soon becomes clear that the house is haunted by evil spirits and will stop at nothing to ensure that anyone living within its walls will be cursed with a living hell on earth.

There’s a classic horror story at the heart of the film, but as such, it really needs something new and unfamiliar to hold our interest and to carve out its own place within the genre. The script, actually rewritten from an earlier film, by Shannon Holiday and director James Klass, is the weakest part of the entire experience and could have used a bit more shoring up. Though uneven at times and repetitive at others, Holiday and Klass certainly understand the value of ramping their story up into a frothy rage as the plot goes on. Problem is, every time the story stumbles, there’s nothing in the way of dire mood or bleak ambiance to prop everything up.

Which brings us to another of the film’s shortcomings; its lack of atmospheric dread. More mileage can always be squeezed from a story if told in a gloomy, dark atmosphere where unseen things happen within the shadows. Oh, don’t get me wrong. Plenty of sick and sadistic shit goes down in the background in House on Elm Lake. Things that might send me straight to hell were I to attempt to describe them here. But rarely do they happen in the dark and rarely is the darkness used to maximum effect.

In fact, almost the entire film is way too bright. There’s certainly value in a well-lit set and many indie efforts have been totally destroyed by poorly lit scenes. But here, even the nighttime scenes look as if they were shot “day for night,” neutering many of the film’s scarier moments.

The most effective cinematic horror and fright almost always come from the things we don’t see and from what the camera just misses in the background. But nearly every money shot in House on Elm Lake takes place right in front of a perfectly placed-camera or in an over-exposed background. Oh, what Manders’ nude demon scenes might have been in the dark!

There are plenty of great horror moments in House on Elm Lake as well as enough in-your-face gore and truly ghoulish moments to spook the pants off even the most experienced horror fans. The entire creep-fest shows great promise from an exciting up-and-coming group of actors who perform quite admirably. In addition, there is plenty of demented craziness on the loose within in the heads of Klass and Holiday, and with several upcoming projects in the chamber, they are certainly worth keeping an unsleeping eye on.



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Film Details

House on Elm Lake - Movie Review

MPAA Rating: Unrated.
Runtime: 96 mins
Director: James Klass
Writer: Shannon Holiday and James Klass
Cast: Becca Hirani, Andrew Hollingworth, Faye Goodwin
Genre: Horror
Tagline: Lucifer Will Rise.
Memorable Movie Quote: "Get Out"
Theatrical Distributor: Wide-Eye Releasing
Official Site:
Release Date: April 10, 2018 (VOD)
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: No details available.
Synopsis: A young couple moves into a lake house that was the site of a ritual murder, and soon realize an ancient, dormant evil has awakened to prey upon them.



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House on Elm Lake - Movie Review

Blu-ray Review


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House on Elm Lake - Movie Review