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THE LAKE (2022)

Directed by Lee Thongkham, Aqing Xu.
Written by Lee Thongkham.
Starring Wanmai Chatborirak, Palita Chueasawathee, Zang Jinsheng, Su Jack, Xu Qian, Vithaya Pansringarm, Sushar Manaying, Lamyai Haithongkham, Thanachat Tunyachat, Amnaj Wajaon, Supansa Wedkama

In a small village in Thailand, the locals find themselves running for their lives when a large monster rises from the waters and runs amok. Amidst the chaos, one man is attacked by the creature and survives, leaving the man with a sort of psychic link with the creature. But when the creature is captured, the man realizes if the monster is hurt, he is hurt as well. Meanwhile, the mother of all monsters emerges in search for her eggs.

Japan is known for some amazing Kaiju cinema through the years, but this is Thailand’s first giant monster movie ever and it’s a whole lot of fun. Comparisons are going to fly with South Korea’s THE HOST and they are well deserved, but THE LAKE is it’s own monster of a monster movie. And while THE HOST was a heart-wrenching story about the importance of family, THE LAKE has some solid themes as well. While I’m sure some of the weight of religion and community might not make it through the cultural divide when Americans see THE LAKE, it doesn’t take much to understand that these are very important aspects to the common Thai person. Seeing the police encouraging the community to go to the temple to pray and take refuge away from the giant monster is not something you’d see in an American film, but it says something interesting about the belief systems and the power of religion in Thai culture. That’s why I love these international horror films. It provides a window into another culture as to how a certain set of people react to the unknown. Though telling the rowdy public to go pray might be quite a laughable direction for American culture, it lets you know that the temple is a very important aspect of this culture.

THE LAKE attempts to try to make this a fable with a strong moral message about responsibility towards the community and those who act selfishly. I don’t know if that message was clearly communicated as it could have been. So the final moments which attempt to sell this moral fell flat on me. Again, it might be a cultural thing, but the attempt at poignancy just didn’t work for me.

That said, I was truly impressed with the monster effects in THE LAKE, which boasts that only 40% of the effects in the film are CGI. The rest is all practical, which I found to be astounding. Watching the movie really does highlight the right way to do a lower budgeted movie and make it look like much more was spent on it. There are some really well framed scenes of the monster wreaking havoc in the background that is slightly blurry, that suggests absolute mayhem without actually showing much. Again, this is reminiscent of THE HOST, but while THE HOST utilized more CGI, THE LAKE is doing the same thing in frame with practical effects. This impresses me much more. There are a lot of quick cuts. There are some scenes where it looks good, but still looks like a bunch of puppeteers manipulating a giant monster mock-up. I loved this. As a kid, I would not only marvel at the effects, but I’d also try to figure out how the effects were made. It was a past-time that was ruined by CGI which makes anything possible. For me, it is more interesting seeing how the creature was brought to life practically and this film is filled with many examples of movie magic. If you’re like me and love well done practical effects, THE LAKE is for you.

The acting is decent here, though as usual, because I am reading the subtitles of this foreign language film, it is harder for me to discern whether the acting is bad or not. Some of the action is very similar to the T-Rex jeep attack seen in the first JURASSIC PARK and other scenes from that franchise. Despite all of that. I had a blast with this one. The monster looks fantastic most of the time. While the quick edits obviously were used to cover up the seams of the practical stuff, it added to the intensity of THE LAKE. So maybe the overall message didn’t resonate, but I still had fun watching this Thai Kaiju a whole hell of a lot. Recommended for old schoolers who miss those good old days of practical effects and men in monster suits smashing through cardboard cities.

Check out the trailer here!!