Directed by Derek Frey | Review by Helen WheelsDerek Frey’s 30-minute featurette, “Green Lake” (2016) reads like a classic horror movie. A “Creature of the Black Lagoon” of sorts, with the added intrigue of being filmed on location, at one of only two lakes in Hawaii. Mythological shapeshifters are the fabled guards of these precious fresh water sources, and legend has it that if their land is disrespected or trespassed upon, a Mo’o possesses the power to wreak havoc.
Frey gives us a classic horror set-up. A group of friends, unaware of the danger that lurks in their surroundings, decide to make the worst possible decision. The lush beauty engulfing the lake does seem like the perfect backdrop for a good old fashion psychedelic mushroom trip. And it could be a great bonding experience, except for the issue with the pissed off protector of sacred land who woke up to join the party.
The dark shape of a woman materializes from the murky waters of Green Lake. Her visage is reminiscent of Samara moving toward the audience after emerging from the well, in Gore Verbinski’s famous scene from “The Ring.” Unlike Samara, the Mo’o is seductive. She hypnotizes her victim as she slinks ever so slowly in for the kill. Her skin is smooth and reptilian. Her hair, long and matted with seaweed gives her the appearance of a being who is part of the eco-system.
Frey’s use of practical effects blends into the natural world. A CGI creature would have appeared too perfect, too modern in this setting. Instead, using costume and make-up, along with body movements and some clever editing produced a believable rendition of the mythic creature. It’s no wonder Frey has such a strong affinity to practical effects; he has spent his career working with Tim Burton.
Matthew Reid’s original score adds substance to the opening narration, transforming the narrator’s words into folklore. The music drifts and bounces throughout the film, moving seamlessly connecting scenes. Reid’s score combined with the skillful use of foley sound adds a sense of anticipation, and outright panic, perfectly timed. Frey also called in some of his Big Island musician friends, Technical Difficulties and Delight Talkies, who wrote songs specifically for the film.
In true Indie fashion, everyone had multiple roles; cast doubled as crew. For nine grueling days, the small band of filmmakers weathered the elements and went without sleep to the point of exhaustion and mental breakdown. Frey calls “Green Lake” his mini “Apocalypse Now.” The Mo’o rising from the water does call to mind one of the famous scenes from Francis Ford Coppola’s movie; however, Frey could be referring to the mental and physical pain that he and his friends went through to produce the film. The sacrifices must have been worth it because the result of their perseverance has garnered numerous festival awards.
“Green Lake” is a solid, entertaining horror film that keeps you hanging on until the end. All great horror movies have an underlying meaning, a warning about some mistake that humanity is making, and “Green Lake” is no different. It’s a warning to everyone that we must maintain our balance with and respect nature or face the consequences. Always remember, “Horror Dwells Deep.”
Helen Wheels is an independent filmmaker, freelance writer, and visual artist. She has produced, directed, worked as a set designer and scenic painter, and has been an assistant director on dozens of films. Wheels graduated from Shoreline College with an AAAS in Digital Film Production and is continuing toward her MFA in New Media Communications. Known for her eye to detail and advanced research skills, Wheels is currently researching historical events for her latest script and is in the process of developing her online writing business.