Cabin by the Lake (1999) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

The concept is sweet.

A screenwriter is creating a trashy movie about the serial murder of naked teenagers. In order to research the film and add a patina of realism, he actually kidnaps young girls and drowns them, making notes all the while, asking questions about their feelings. After they die, he creates an undersea garden which consists of naked young drowned girls methodically arranged like one of those sea monkey drawings in back of the old comic books.

Only one little problem. The film keeps talking about nudity, but doesn't have any. 

The agent says, "it's a film about drowning naked teenagers". The aspiring actresses who come to the town for the location shooting say "we play naked underwater corpses". Hedy Burress, as one of the victims, tells her kidnapper that she doesn't care whether he looks or not, then strips off her robe brazenly in front of him. At one point, the effects people tell one of the pseudo-actresses to get naked so they can make a cast of her body for F/X. 

That's the theory.

The reality is this:
  • The actresses who come to play naked corpses don't get naked on camera. 
  • Hedy strips off her robe while the camera stays on her head and shoulders. 
  • The author does not drown naked teenagers. He drowns girls that are wearing more clothing than a typical Inuit in February. 
  • The bodies in the underwater garden are not naked. 


None, but why?

It's a TV movie, and I reckon they made this for a non-titty channel, so there's nothing to see here, boys. Move along.

What a damned shame. It is actually a lively premise that could have resulted in a lurid masterpiece of exploitation, ala Wild Things, but 

1. They created it with no flesh, even though flesh seemed to be the very point of the movie, as well as the movie within the movie.

2. They hired a good director, but not the right one. I think Po-Chih Leong did a great job on The Wisdom of Crocodiles, that stylish and semi-crazed vampire romance with Jude Law. But this film didn't really call for a stylish, romantic look. I did like what Leong did with the underwater garden, and there are some spectacular shots of the lake itself, but those weren't really the key elements in the movie. This film needed somebody who understood both terror and humor, not necessarily beautiful sunsets.

3. They hired Judd Nelson for the lead. Yes, he is still alive, and still in show business. The script has a strong undercurrent of sardonic commentary on the writer's lack of status in a film project.  Imagine how this all could have worked for Bill Murray. I guess Bill was beyond their pocketbook, but it's a shame.

4. It appears that some of the minor characters were cast based on criteria unrelated to their ability to handle the roles. I cannot speculate on what those criteria might have been, but let us kindly assume that it was a matter of budget constraints.

  • I couldn't find any purchase info. I rented it at Blockbuster.

Sadly, the people who produced this film seem to have no sense of irony. They took a script about how writers are second-class citizens who are ignored in the final product, and they produced it into something which ignores what the author seems to have intended.

Well, at least we know he was right all along.

The Critics Vote

  • no reviews online

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 5.0 
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

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