Lake Bodom is inspired by a true story that has haunted Finland for years. On the morning of June 5, 1960 four teenagers that were camping on the shores of Lake Bodom in Espoo, Finland were brutally attacked. Three of the young campers were stabbed to death leaving a single lone survivor. Nearly 60 years later and the case is currently case has gone unsolved.
The film version of Lake Bodom isn’t about the actual murders but rather a group of modern teens that decide to go out to the lake in an effort to re-stage the murders to see if they can find clues that may have gone unnoticed and use them to solve the case. Technically only two of the teens — Elias (Mikael Gabriel) and Atte (Santeri Helinheimo Mäntylä) — are planning to re-stage the murders and they actually have to trick the girls — Nora (Mimosa Willamo) and Ida (Nelly Hirst-Gee) — into participating.
Atte is sort of the nerdier of the friends and he’s the one truly obsessed with the murders. He convinces the girls to join them by telling them they’re going to stay at a cabin located just off the lake. This cabin does not exist. Elias’ interest in the case is much milder, but he’s all about getting the girls out to the lake for the weekend. More than anything else Elias seems like your fairly typical high school boy looking to hook up.
Over on the girls’ side, there’s Nora and she’s kind of like the party girl of the bunch. She’s similar to Elias in that she agrees to go to what she thinks is a cabin to smoke a little weed and possibly hook up. Bottom line, Nora wants to have fun. Ida is the shy girl in comparison. She’s more of the girl next door type, but she’s done something in her recent past that has brought shame to her family, at least in the eyes of her father. We find out that some inappropriate pictures of her were shared throughout her school. Pictures that were potentially taken after she got drunk and passed out at a party.
Once they all arrive at the lake the girls learn of the boys’ true intentions and discover there is no cabin. They’re justifiably upset by this discovery, but they adjust to it pretty quickly. On the bright side, they’re still at a lake for the weekend and they’ve got some weed so good times will likely still be had. This is the basic setup for Lake Bodom and it’s pretty standard as far as slashers go. Each one of these characters fits the mold of your typical slasher teens.
Predictably the teens are brutally attacked on their first night by a crazed lunatic. It’s shortly after this first attack that Lake Bodom makes the first of a couple of twists that occur throughout the film. This first turn isn’t terribly surprising, but as we learn more it begins to add layers to the story and change some of our earlier conceptions. As we begin to process all that we just learned another ingredient is tossed in the bowl and that’s when Lake Bodom starts to turn into something really special.
I’m a big fan of the slasher subgenre so I go into almost every slasher I watch very exciting about what I may see while trying to keep that excitement somewhat in check. There’s an entire world of disappointment out there so you have to stay even-keeled. That’s what makes it all the more pleasing that Lake Bodom shattered my expectations in every possibly way.
On the surface, it’s a very basic slasher but there is an unexpected cleverness to it thanks to the turn it makes about halfway in. The slashing, which is obviously key in any slasher, is violently savage and uncompromising. And then as an added a bonus there is an absolutely bonkers chase scene. At least I’m calling it a chase scene. In reality, it’s a scene with a tow truck towing a car that a couple of our characters happen to be in. The tow truck is zooming along at speeds that are in no way safe when towing and it’s incredibly exciting.
Lake Bodom screened at the Overlook Film Festival and going into it I had virtually no knowledge of Finnish horror films outside of Rare Exports. That didn’t stop me from assuming horror was huge in Finland. I justified this line of thinking because Finland has a pretty rich history with death metal. Death metal and horror go hand-in-hand, right? Apparently not because during a post-screening Q&A director Taneli Mustonen spoke about how rare Finnish horror films are and how difficult they are to finance. Lake Bodom, for example, took nearly 10 years to fund.
The Wikipedia page for Finnish horror films lists a total of 7. From that list, I’ve only seen the aforementioned Rare Exports and I love it. After seeing Lake Bodom the Finns are now batting 2-for-2 when it comes to horror as far as I’m concerned. They may not realize it, but I think they’re onto something here.
Lake Bodom uses the conventional slasher points but gives them a fun and interesting twist while still maintaining everything we love about them. It won’t reinvent the slasher but it could be the jumping-off point that leads to more horror from Finland.
Lake Bodom played the Overlook Film Festival in Oregon and is now available on Shudder.