If you have ever tried playing a game where the rules were missing from the box, things can become confusing and frustrating quite quick. Same with a board game, there needs to be a certain set of rules in a horror movie to make the danger the characters experience feel threatening, yet overcomeable. In Nightmare on Elm Street, it is established that dreams are Freddy Krueger’s domain where he can do anything but soon the characters realize that they can pull him out of their dreams making him vulnerable. If the film doesn’t have rules for the danger, then it feels like the characters are saved by happenstance rather than their own actions, as is the case with Lake Artifact.
A group of friends is looking to spend a few days up at a lake house on the shores of the beautiful Paradox Lake. On the way there a drifter helps with some car trouble and goes along for a fun-filled night of partying. The next morning the group finds a photo none of them remember taking, and soon after spot a man lurking in the background of the photograph. What the group doesn’t know is that they are spending their weekend in a house known for supernatural activity and a series of disappearances, and the horror has just begun for them.
In the introduction, there is a documentary crew talking to different members of the community about Paradox lake, a town councilman, an executive director of a church called the Hand of God, and a historian of American cults. These interviews are intercut into the main plot of the group at the lake house to bring a bit more light to what is happening here. While they are enjoyable and give those epiphany moments, it comes across as explanations for the audience that the characters never fully uncover.
One of those moments that Lake Artifact just glosses over in the worst way is when they discover the man in the background of the photos. He is an elderly man that knows one of the character’s names, and after receiving a massive realization that character does nothing with the information. They don’t inform the rest of the group that things are absolutely not normal, but just let it go. Moments like this just happen and disappear before a character just explains what is happening in a convoluted way, that the characters just latch on to.
In between the documentary segments and flashbacks to flash-forwards, what is interesting about Lake Artifact gets drowned out. Those scenes could have been filled by the characters discovering the information on their own or developing them into better characters instead of generic friend group bound for a horror house in the forest. The story might become a bit more streamlined but it would heighten the interesting concept that the film has going for it and not end up as the forgettable film that it ends up being.
5 out of 10