So this movie wasn’t made for TV by Lifetime Channel, but it was on Lifetime when I watched it so I thought, why not? Cabin by the Lake stars Judd Nelson, AKA “Nostrils” from the movie The Breakfast Club, and was directed by Po Chih Leong. It’s the story of a screenwriter who kidnaps young girls and places them in an underwater “garden,” as he writes a script of a man who does the same thing. And what do you know? It ain’t half bad.
The movie opens on Nelson/Stanley , returning to his home by boat (hint, it’s a Cabin by a Lake). He takes a sexy bath when the phone rings. It’s his frigid bitch of an agent, complaining about DEADLINES! He sarcastically tells her he’s doing research, that he has a girl locked in his basement who he’s going to go drown. He makes a sandwich of what I’m almost positive is all pickles, then takes it downstairs, where we see that he really does have a girl locked in his basement. Her name is Kimberley. He gives her clean clothes, stuffs a lemon in her mouth (YKINMK), and takes his boat out onto the lake. He attaches a GPS tracker to a cement block, attaches the cement block to Kimberly, then throws the whole thing in the water. Before, however, he asks her what she is feeling. He’s writing a screenplay after all.
Cut to the sheriff and Stanley, (they’re friends), in a costume shop during a horror movie screening. We see that this is the town’s resident group of special effects artists. The movie has just established that someone can make realistic dead bodies, SO THIS IS IMPORTANT.
Cut to the sheriff’s office, where we see from missing persons posters on the wall that five girls have gone missing so far (one’s name is Ariel, buh dum pish).
Cut to Stanley scuba-diving in the lake. He collects the body of Kimberley and moves her to his “garden,” but on the way she becomes untied and floats to the surface, right next to the boat of an unsuspecting Japanese fisherman. But luckily, or unluckily, Takamura-san is looking over the wrong side of his vessel and doesn’t see the body float to the surface. We then get the full scope of his “garden.” Each of the girls are wearing a different outfit, one’s a bride, etc. And they’re all preserved, except the bride, who is a skeleton.
Stanley goes back out on the prowl for a new girl. At a movie theater, he over-hears that the concession counter girl, Mallory, is afraid of water. Stanley gets a certain twinkle in his eye, and a certain bulge in his pants. On the concession girl’s way home from work, he causes her to rear-end his white creeper van. When she gets out to get his information, he opens the back of his conversion van to the sound of barking dogs, (a recording). He claims he wants to check on his dogs. When she peeks inside to look, he shoves her in. Inside the back of van is written on a glowing sticker: “I’m the guy your mother warned you about.”
He brings food (pickle sandwich) to our protagonist after locking her in his makeshift dungeon, and asks her to change clothes, as he wants to clean the ones she is in. He then has a conversation with his agent that mirrors the events of this movie, “Kidnap a stronger girl next time, the killings are getting redundant,” the agent advises him. When he goes in again to visit his victim, he offers a bath and clothes. Mallory strips and defiantly says, “Don’t you get it? I don’t care what you do.” Stanley looks shocked and then just walks out of the room. While she’s in the bath, Stanley sits behind a screen and rambles an extended metaphor about beautiful homes being destroyed to make way for pre-fabbed shit. It’s obviously about his screenplays and his anger at his agent’s inferences.
Cue goofball music as we cut to the makeup effects bunch, who have just gotten a contract to do the effects for the movie Stanley is writing. They want the deputy sheriff to take a night dive to get some shots. I’m not really sure why as these are the effects artists, they aren’t filming the movie.
Cut to Stanley at lunch with his agent and a man I assume is the producer of the film. They argue about the title and the “character.” They demand the movie sooner. I found this odd. I never thought that this much thought went into slasher films.
Upon returning to basement, he finds that Mallory has written, YOU DON’T SCARE ME, on the wall (the wall is covered in graffiti from previous prisoners). He tells her he’ll let her go… on the other side of the lake. Blindfolding her, he drives Mallory around in order to confuse her, and make it seem as if they drove a long time to get to the lake (which his house is on). He gets her in the boat, and tells her he’ll let her go—after they cross the lake. He tells her they’ve reached the other side, but SURPRISE! He lied. He takes off her blindfold and with a kiss to her forehead (these two have intense sexual tension) drops her off the side of the boat with a cement block, right into the middle of the lake. But as fate would have it, the special effects team is diving at the same time, and they witness Mallory sinking like a stone. The party, including the deputy sheriff, cut Mallory free, and take her back to dry land.
At Mallory’s insisting, they decide to hatch a plot. The old man sheriff wants to raise the bodies, but Mallory tells them the killer goes to tend the “garden” every day, and if the girls are gone, he’ll skip town. They would never find him.
The special effects artists make a mold of Mallory, putting a camera in her eye. Meanwhile we see that Stanley has finished his script. His garden is finished. He cleans up his basement dungeon and wipes the graffiti off the walls, all except for Mallory’s YOU DON’T SCARE ME, which he looks at in longing contemplation. Back with Mallory, deputy-sheriff McLoveinterest sits in bed with her as she sleeps, and keeps his hands to himself, although she ends up cuddling into him. D’awwww. Making relationships while emotionally compromised is fun!
The next morning they reveal the model of Mallory AND! … it’s really fucking terrible. The wig is bad, the sex doll hands are bad: it’s ALL bad. If this were on Face/off, Glenn Hetrick would say something sassy, with vocabulary far beyond the average viewer. For some reason they find it necessary to bring the girl WHO IS TERRIFIED OF WATER, with them to drop off the model of her dead corpse in a “garden” of dead girls. Yeah, that’s not going to scar her for life or anything. It’s okay though, she gets over it fast and they all make jokes on their way to the underwater graves of five innocent girls.
Stanley goes to tend the garden and they catch him on the eyeball camera, but the picture is too blurry to see him, as he is wearing diving gear, and it’s FUCKING UNDERWATER. They can see that the fake Mallory is moving though. Stanley places her in his garden, but when he lovingly caresses her fake latex face, which has no teeth or any resemblance to the corpses he is by now a connoisseur of, he discovers that her eyeball is a camera.
Then we get a sweet scuba-diving police chase set to rip-off public domain Nine Inch Nails. Unfortunately, Aquaman proves too much and eludes their grasp.
Later, at the sheriff’s office, Mallory gives a statement and then works with a sketch artist. She chooses one, and the Deputy says that it looks like his friend, Stan, a screen writer. She insists that the man who kidnapped her is an architect, because of the house metaphor. Seriously? SO NOTHING IS DONE?
Later, Mallory is in a motel room in town. She is in the bath, trying to push herself to submerge without freaking out. She finally does, and when she opens her eyes, AH! JUDD NELSON! This sounds like my Thursday night fantasy come to life. But Mallory is not amused, especially when he pushes her ass under. He puts her, naked, back in the van (the sign now reads, I’M >STILL< THE MAN YOUR MOTHER WARNED YOU ABOUT, I chuckled). So back to the same old basement shit, pickle sandwiches and baths. As they’re talking, she finds out that this is, in fact, all for a story.
So Office Useless shows up at Mallory’s motel room. SHE NO THERE. WHERE GIRL GO? SNUU SNUU.
Mallory writes again on the wall, DO I SCARE YOU? Judd Nelson struggles with his erection. The Deputy arrives at Stanley’s house, and I then discover that the dungeon is on the first fucking floor. Judd Nelson is a terrible serial killer. It’s not even an interior room! This fucking guy. So as a rejected song from Dracula the Musical plays, we get a shot of Mallory and the deputy standing with only the exterior wall and what I can assume is several inches of soundproofing separating them. Then Mallory turns shares a hand-dance with Stanley through a two-way mirror, before she smashes it with her fist. She’s not that into you, bro.
For your listening pleasure, the actual song from the movie. I would recommend rereading while listening to this. Put yourself in the mood.
So then, Stanley’s agent and producer arrive! Wump, wump, wahhhhh.
Meanwhile, a bunch of dumbass teen girls show up randomly. Turns out they’re actresses in the up-coming film. As they’re being molded for the dead body models, they tell the effects team all about the story. The team immediately puts two-and-two together (unlike any other person of authority in this movie) and demand to know who wrote the script. They give up the goods and she tell them Stanley wrote it.
Cut back to Stanley at home; the agent left to another room for about a second. When she returns Stanley has blood on his shirt, and the producer is lying dead on the floor. How silently did this guy die? She was down the hall and didn’t hear him being murdered? She laughs and eats a raw tomato, believing the bleeding dead producer to be a prank. When she bends down close enough to see that he really is a corpse, Stanley throws her in the dungeon along with Mallory.
He puts them both on the boat as cops swarm his house. The cops rush to the “garden” and catch him. They reach his location just as he is about to push the weighted women under. They have a bit of a stand-off, during which Mallory and Stanley look longingly at each other, and almost kiss. Stanley then drops the women over board. The cops cut Mallory loose once she sinks to the bottom, but apparently leave the agent to drown. Stanley gets tied to one of the under-water cement blocks somehow. The Dracula the Musical song plays again, as Mallory and Stanley stare at each other as he (apparently) dies. When the police go back down the next day, they find the agent but not Stanley. ( Dun dun dunnnn!)
Later, Mallory happily wades into the lake she almost drowned in. I guess experiencing a horrible trauma helped her get over a phobia. Sounds legit to me. As she goes underwater, she sees Stanley’s face before her. But no one is actually there. She sobs and chokes on the shore as Sheriff Boyfriend comforts her.
Cut to Stanley in a terrible wig talking to a movie big wig (pun fully intended,) about a new movie idea. A man buries girls in his backyard, and he chooses them by their hands. The movie ends with Stanley staring into the camera menacingly. I think menacingly? It could have been just Judd Nelson’s generic nostril stare. In any case, goofball music plays in the background.
I really liked this movie and would daresay recommend it?! It’s pretty disturbing material, but doesn’t take itself seriously. At all.