THE LAKE (บึงกาฬ) (DISNEY+) (2022)
SYNOPSIS: When a mysterious monster rises from the Mekong River and attacks Bueng Kan, it cuts people off from the outside world. Officials and people in the area, including Chinese scientists who accidentally came to conduct research in Thailand, must be mobilized to catch this monster before it’s too late.
It’s puzzling how a simple Kaiju movie in the vein of Godzilla could go completely off course. This Thai-Chinese co-production is a hot mess from the haphazard script to the amateur acting. And we have yet touch on the special and visual effects that helped bring the creature to life.
The monster thriller starts promisingly enough. A mysterious creature has risen from the river and begins to attack the villagers including a pair of siblings who are out looking for the sister’s missing daughter, May. In the meantime, the Chief of police decides to mobilize the rest of the villagers to hunt for the monster and that includes one of his inspectors who somehow brought his rebellious teenage daughter along. Then there is a pair of Chinese scientists who are conducting some kind of vague research in the area.
The narrative to begin with is overstuffed to the point of meaningless. The movie would have worked better if it concentrates solely on the Inspector while the rest be just relegated to supporting characters. But director Lee Thongkham who also wrote the script eagerly splits the story between both parties and the result is simply dismal.
Keng, the brother of the siblings is shown mostly staring blankly into the camera. Did he developed some sort of telekinetic power from the monster after being bitten by it? Or is he slowly turning into the sea monster? There’s no obvious answers of course. And Thongkham also devoted a portion of the screentime to the Inspector and his daughter forgetting there is actually a monster on the loose. As for the pair of Chinese scientists, they are basically sidelined after the first act.
To be fair, there are occasional CGI wide shots of the monster which are pretty outstanding. There’s indeed a generous display of the creature right from the beginning although as the movie progresses, there’s an overwhelmingly use of fast cuts, shaky cams, blurry shots and obvious cheap practical effects to hide the creature from the camera. Laughingly, there’s also an attack sequence in the flick that is primarily copied from Jurassic Park that fell miles short of the latter’s suspense and thrills. A cheap practical monster head we suspect is probably constructed in place of expensive CGI.
And to make matters worse, the story ended with a long epilogue involving some Buddhism philosophies that seems rather out of place for a simple monster feature. In fact, there’s no massive destruction in the end except the monster just wants her eggs and child to be rightfully returned. Imagine all the hoo-ha and excitement.
Thus, please do not switch on The Lake and expect something liked The Host or Godzilla. Thai cinema has been providing audiences a steady supply of more than decently made horrors and comedies but The Lake is not one of them.
Review by Linus Tee