A withdrawn teenager named Tom (Anson Boon) and his mother Elaine (Charlie Murphy) have just moved to Sligo from England, after Tom lands them in trouble. He discovers something at a local seasonal lake that both disturbs and fascinates him. The boy learns that it could be linked to a dark secret that his neighbours – a farmer named Ward (Michael McElhatton) and his teenage daughter Holly (Emma Mackey) – are hiding.
‘The Winter Lake’ works hard at creating a chilling ambience through its spooky soundtrack and striking visuals. A child at the bottom of lake provides a haunting opening image, while Tom’s strange, quiet demeanour is introduced as he observes a ‘Hamlet’-esque animal skull. The moment of his watery discovery is also poignant and frightening.
Thus, from the outset, you're invested in the mystery that surrounds Tom, and this place he has moved to. And yet the film, for all its potential to be interesting, plays out conventionally.
There's something of a forced, inorganic feel to the feature. Like so many Irish movies, you can feel how it was hampered by budget constraints. It also feels like director Phil Sheerin is adapting influences from other works, without really coming into its own. The result is a film that doesn’t feel new, different, or particularly exciting. It’s just quite dull and boring.
You couldn’t even call the plot twist a twist, because you see what's coming a mile away. The final act is particularly disappointing, as it’s so predictable and kind of ridiculous. One thing that can be said for the movie, at least, is that the performances are solid. Anson Boon is a good lead, Charlie Murphy proves as talented as ever, and Michael McElhatton is convincingly evil. Emma Mackey, renowned for ‘Sex Education’, is excellent too, expertly manipulating Tom, who falls for her fast and hard. By the end though, her characterisation and motives seem messy.
Not quite a horror, not quite a thriller, and not quite a coming of age narrative either, ‘The Winter Lake’ falls flat.
‘The Winter Lake’ will be available on digital download from 15th March.