Starring: Dustin Booth, Morgan Simpson, Grinnell Morris, Shi Ne Nelson and Carla Toutz
Director: Brian Ide
Writers: Morgan Simpson and Grinnell Morris
Peeeee youuuuuu! This film stunk up my living room something fierce. This film was recommended by Netflix because I had watched The Crazies. But, this movie was hardly scary except for a moment when the married couple was surprised by a startled cat. My girlfriend shrieked in my ear causing me to scream. Our dog looked at us like we were both nuts. That was the only real shocker during the whole 92 minutes of running time.
Fifteen years before the story begins the town of Clear Lake, Wisconsin is evacuated by the CDC because of a mysterious illness killing town folks. The disease is traced back to a toxic chemical spill in the lake. No one has been within the town’s borders since.
During the panic preceding the evacuation, 13 town locals disappeared. It is discovered that it is the due to the work of a mysterious clergyman known as “The Minister,” who was really just the high school basketball coach filling in for the real minister after he fell ill, and a group of his teenaged followers who refer to themselves as the Warriors. These young people helped kidnap, torture and murder these hapless “sinners” whom the Minster (Michael Madsen) sees as the cause of the plague that he interprets as God’s wrath for the town’s unbelief.
The Minister is off his nut and seriously believes that he is trying to save the townspeople and the kids are totally enraptured by his depraved message. A totally clichéd background story if there ever was one. The Minister eventually pleads guilty and goes to prison for life. His teenaged followers miraculously escape prosecution and end up scattered across the country to live tortured, unhappy lives until young PBS documentarian Kyra Sannhet decides to tell their story.
In horror film circles this is known as a really bad idea. Despite being warned off by former Clear Lake sheriff, Joe Dietzer (Paul Ben-Victor) who is inexplicably in a wheel chair, Kyra believes her project will do some good. She has the large doe eyes of a young idealist who hasn’t lived long enough to develop common sense. She won’t either, but this should not be a surprise. Sherriff Dietzer tells her that “she doesn’t know what she is dealing with” during an interview at his home. But, young idealists are crazy, especially sweet faced, pretty and earnest young idealists. Kyra somehow manages to convince four of the warriors to return to the abandoned town to relive their past in order to get at the mystery behind the events.
The problem is there is no mystery. A toxic spill caused an illness, a sociopathic basketball coach gets religion and uses his teenaged disciples to kidnap and punish sinners. The big question Kyra tries to get the answer for is why? Why would these seemingly normal, good kids suddenly fall under the spell of an authority figure that they turned to in a time of fear and uncertainty? Oh…wait a minute…
Don’t worry fans of unrelenting and unseen killers. Clear Lake has one of those too except that it’s so obvious that you are yawning the whole time the filmmaker and her subjects get picked off one at a time. Actually, rather than building suspense by stalking each victim after stranding the group with no way to leave, he sort of rounds them up and makes quick work of them in the high school.
Normally, I try to avoid spoiler alerts, but I am hoping to avoid you losing 90 minutes of your life you won’t ever get back. The killer is the crazy one. They’re all a little crazy, to be sure, and who wouldn’t be after what they went through 15 years ago? But, the killer is a bit of an asshole and a little crazier then the rest. He’s also impotent. When he gets his chance to get a little ass from Beth, the girl he has longed for since high school, while checking out the church he flips. Potential serial killers should always avoid sex. It seems to trigger homicidal rage.
Speaking of homicidal rages this film is so bad it will trigger a homicidal rage in you providing that you don’t fall asleep first. The real mystery in Clear Lake, Wisconsin is not the horrific events in the past, but how Michael Madsen and Paul Ben-Victor, both competent actors, agreed to appear in this film. Perhaps, just as Lawrence Olivia and Burgess Meredith who appeared in Clash of the Titans, they just needed the work. Sending children to college is expensive. The film has one redeeming quality. Watch it if you have trouble falling asleep. Avoid it if you are depressed otherwise you will find yourself sticking your head in a gas oven just to make it all stop.