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House By The Lake Review

House By The Lake is a 2017 horror film about a struggling married couple who try to reconnect at a lake house with their young daughter and her imaginary friend.

It’s funny how one doesn’t even need to know a thing about the plot of Adam Gierasch‘s House By The Lake to know where it’s going, just by the title. Horror films of this sort are of a singular purpose, committed to its scares more than story that’s built around it, and while it works hard to prop up its premise, ultimately can’t do anything to distinguish itself from so many like it.

Scott (James Callis) and Karen (Anne Dudek) are a young couple just teetering on the rocks, holding on but embattled by their approaches to their 10-year-old daughter Emma (Amiah Miller), an autistic child who likes only to draw. Scott is more liberal, looking for chances to explore while Karen is controlling and overprotective. They decide to take a trip to Scott’s parent’s summer house by the lake, hoping it can rekindle some strength and help Emma with her issues. They hire Gwen (Natasha Bassett) a beautiful live-in professional special needs nanny to join them. Once there though, as tensions mount, things get weird as tales of a haunted fish-man creature in the lake seems to take to Emma, leading to all sorts of creepy goings on.

It takes nearly a solid half hour before House By The Lake settles into itself, establishing a lot about the relationships at play, though without much conviction, the drama trying to build conflict between Scott and Karen over Gwen and how best to take care of Emma. In the mix comes another odd character, that of local yokel Harry (Michael Bowen), who is clearly unstable and has his eyes on the little girl for exactly the reasons you’re thinking. He prompts the child to ‘listen’ to the water and from there, it becomes increasingly obvious that someone or some-thing is very interested in Emma. The problem is that while the film embraces all the clichés, which wouldn’t be all the bad, it simply has no urgency, and then undercuts the very thing it establishes. It works hard to be emotional, creating all kinds of contention, but most of its impact is weakened by contrivances and drawn out moments that lead to an ending that veers well away from what I expected, taking this in a whole different direction that, for me, was disappointing.

One of the larger issues is the autism itself. Miller, who did great work in this year’s War For The Planet Of The Apes, is never convincing, playing the child as mostly mute and just kind of sad and angry, never once making us believe she is as diagnosed. Really though, having her autistic in the first place seems entirely unnecessary, especially given how it’s portrayed. It would have worked just as well with a lonely child in an unhappy family rather than making a stretch for a kid with some kind of ethereal connective powers.

There are some good things here though, with Callis putting in a great effort and Bassett also well cast. The story also has some legs and there are some moments that make it click, mostly when Callis or Bassett are on screen. However, the film can’t find its footing overall, with uninspired direction and an infuriating final shot, even as it tries to be far-reaching. With few actual scares and not much suspense, House By The Lake will be best for die-hard fans of the genre.

House By The Lake Review

Movie description: House By The Lake is a 2017 horror film about a struggling married couple who try to reconnect at a lake house with their young daughter and her imaginary friend.

Director(s): Adam Gierasch

Actor(s): Natasha Bassett, Mark Berry, Michael Bowen

Genre: Horror

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