Home The Show The Brains Rantings Stuff Hook Ups Brain Board

It’s fair to say that many of the films featured on Brains On Film aren’t “Great” films per se, no doubt, it’s equally fair to mention that there’s always at least one “Great” thing about these films, no matter how discriminating your tastes might be. THE PEOPLE ACROSS THE LAKE is a film that many purists who wallow in the muck affectionately known as “cult films” or “b-movies” might not instantly jump to discuss. It was a made-for-TV effort thrown out there in the late 80s, 1988 to be exact. To an old asshole like me that doesn’t seem like a great era for exploitation shenanigans but for every thousand or so pieces of fecal chunktitude there is a always a golden kernel of sugar sweet corn. With what might be considered a very mundane cast of TV regulars, Gerald McRaney, Valerie Harper and Barry Corbin it’s not hard to see why this film might be forgotten, but upon further inspection, THE PEOPLE ACROSS THE LAKE is a nice little slice of maudlin telebision horror, lying somewhere on vacant ground between Hitchcock’s PSYCHO and an episode of FATHER KNOWS BEST.

The plot is fairly basic; the Yoman’s are a city dwelling family, Chuck, Rachel and the two kids, Lisa and Stevie. Rachel’s into real estate, Chuck is a broker. They live with alarms on their house, a teen daughter who dates boys with fast cars and neighbor without a door key who peeks into their bathroom window to get the families attention. Pretty typical, really. But Ma and Pa Yoman have always had a dream to live out in the country away from the city and security systems. Somewhere on the lake, so when the old Johnson place comes available, they throw caution to the wind, pack up the truck (in this case a nice woody station wagon) and move it out. To the lake they go, much to daughter Lisa’s dismay. Chuck is going to make sailboards (yep, Major Dad on a sailboard) and Rachel will run the business.

I guess I should mention that pre the credit roll, we see a lady in red satin shoes leave a house, we hear her voice-over, then she is apparently killed and dragged to a small boat, a male voice says something about being unable to dispose of the body in the lake they are afloat on, “I just can’t” he laments.

It’s apparent that Tomahawk Lake is ripe with locals who aren’t that keen on outsiders. Summer folk are how they are referred to. We are introduced to New England weirdo after New England weirdo. But one thing everyone seems to agree on is that there is none weirder than Henry Link, the crazed vet who lives across the lake. Link is highly suspect of anyone coming near his place and thinks nothing of brandishing his artillery to frighten away unwanted trespassers.

Most of the early moments of THE PEOPLE ACROSS THE LAKE remind you that you are watching a made-for-TV movie. The pacing is TV like, the scene structure is perfect for commercial television and the acting is well, of the soap-opera-like over-dramatic style. But the film picks up nicely when Chuck decides to take a run one morning. He sidles up to the bank of the lake as it is drizzling rain and decides to take a dip, a skinny dip actually. Chuck strips and hits the lake paddling, when he comes up for a breath he things he’s tangled in brush but in fact, there is a human arm draped around him, as he makes haste for the shore the hand somehow grips his ankle and he drags it to the shore. But when Chuck goes to call the authorities, his friendly hand has disappeared. Local law enforcement comprised of Sheriff Boignton and his young Deputy John seems to sluff it off as a log or something else. But Deputy John adds a little more detail when he follows Chuck and Rachel home. It seems over the past 15 years there have been a few bodies come up missing and even a few that were found, mutilated even. Deputy John tells the Yoman’s that the Sheriff likes to keep that stuff under his hat as to not muck up the tourist trade at Tomahawk. It seems as the townsfolk learn of Chuck’s discovery they don’t want him barking too loud about either, no one takes kindly to anyone screwing up the cash the summer vacationers bring to the little burg. A couple hickories go as far as threatening Chuck. It seems the only friend they really have outside of the young deputy is Malcolm Bryce, an older gentleman who lives near them. After Chuck and Rachel get shooed from Henry Link’s land, Malcolm soothes their nerves with some nice lake caught fish and stories of his wife. Malcolm is also Deputy John’s father. Malcolm is the kindly, cardigan wearing, carnation sporting, peacemaker around Tomahawk it seems, and the lake area’s historian and grand pooba, as well

Chuck goes through a brief period where even Rachel doubts he saw anything at the lake, but when the two of them are jogging and decide to get off the trail and play hide the Little Major, Rachel looses her hard-on when lying beside them, in some brush, is a decomposing male body. Chuck urges Rachel to go call the Sheriff so he can stay there and make sure it doesn’t disappear, but Rachel is fucking scared and delivers what might be my favorite line in the whole film as she decides it would be better to try and take the body with them…but when they try to load him on Chuck's shirt, she disappointedly warbles, ”Oh Chuck, he’s coming apart!” Finally Rachel does what Chuck says and goes and gets the authorities.

THE PEOPLE ACROSS THE LAKE shifts into it’s high gear, crazy old Henry Link, played effectively by Daryl Anderson (a dead ringer for Bruce Dern, whom you might remember as the very hairy "Animal" from TV’s Lou Grant) seems to be everyone’s suspect, but when he turns up dead in the Yoman’s cupboard the Scooby Dooisms take a dim turn. The final reel contains, dead decaying bodies, gunplay, matching battle-axes and a somewhat downer ending that comes as a bit of a shock. Once again a case of a made for TV movie pushing the boundaries a bit, and pulling it off. a capper is it’s done with some familiar lower end faces.

I’ve never been one to shun my respect for Gerald McRaney. Sure in the mid 80s he became a household word due to the geriatric appeal of Simon & Simon, he also did something that no one really did and that was guest star on a series when he was the star of one. When he showed up on the top rated Designing Women as Delta Burke’s ex-husband, he himself was Rick Simon on another show. Of course, the two fell in love and were eventually married. After Simon & Simon, McRaney fell right into another TV hit Major Dad, but believe me his early work was a fun as any b-film actors should be. In 1969 he starred in back-to-back Joy Houck Jr. freak-outs as the heavy. WOMEN AND BLOODY TERROR and the classically “bad’ HIGHT OF BLOODY HORROR. A few years later he did time with Houck again in THE BRAIN MACHINE. Previous to his stint with Simon & Simon he seemed to always land the bad guy role, and he was pretty good at it. Even his television characters had a touch of attitude. As Chuck Yoman, McRaney plays the dutiful father/husband in a very straightforward TV leading man way, but there are moments of fine acting as the film draws to its conclusion.

Valerie Harper will forever be Rhoda Morganstern, Mary Tyler Moore’s sharp-tongued New Yawk neighbor, but before that series she did time on stage and even performed as part of the legendary Second City comedy troupe. Harper tends to grate to some but she’s not a bad actress. The biggest problem is Harper rarely had to slum it after MTM and stayed conservative in her choice of projects. She has long been a Women’s Libber, being one of the first to go braless on network television and that alone is enough to get me to give her the high sign. As Rachel, she plays the scared missus with stage like precision but proves ultimately she can rise to the occasion.

Barry Corbin’s Malcolm Bryce steals the show, proving that he can act circles around most folks you put him up against. From quite, somber moments describing the loss of his wife to utterly upsetting moments that transpire as the film develops Corbin proves why now is considered one of TV’s great character actors, cemented by his performance in the 90s and Northern Exposure’s cranky Maurice. But Corbin has always been more than just a TV actor. His big break came when he was cast as Travolta’s Uncle Bob in 1980s URBAN COWBOY. He oozed pure Texas on the screen, and emotionally attached the audience to Travolta’s bull riding by taking on the role of mentor and making us care more than we should. The same year he was featured in the follow-up to Eastwood’s EVERY WHICH WAY BUT LOOSE, ANY WHICH WAY YOU CAN. His rich Texan character Zack is just as fun is this shitburger of a sequal is. I mean that as a compliment, of course. Corbin made major bank throughout the 80s, working on nearly 60 features in that decade alone. My favorite Corbin role aside from his portrayal as Bryce might the in Blake Edward’s comedy THE MAN WHO LOVED WOMEN, Corbin’s character shows Burt Reynolds’s character his new bathroom complete with beautiful paintings, a bidet and the like. A classic line ensues…”yeah that’s right, the booday. Now, Lulu’s got one in her toilet in there. I though mine was a drinking fountain ‘till I sat down on it. I’ll tell you, it’ll get your heart started in the morning!” Classic Barry Corbin. He brings that simple wholesome delivery to his role here, but we also se the darker side of Malcolm Bryce.

John Bryce is played by relatively unknown Jeff Kizer, he’s not horrible but seems to come from the Arch Hall Jr. School of muggery as characterization. When he cries in front of his daddy though it’s about as good as it gets and his performance on the TV movie scorecard is definitely up to par. And for the ladies, he ain’t too bad to look at…not that I’m good at gauging that shit. I think Ben Affleck looks like ass but the ladies like him so what do I know.

I found THE PEOPLE ACROSS THE LAKE highly enjoyable. The suspense builds nicely. The acting is handled with a bit of craft courtesy of veteran stage and screen director Arthur Allan Seidelman. Seidelman’s credits are definitely impressive. He began in 1970 with the cult “classic: HERCULES IN NEW YORK starring a muscle headed Arnlold Schwarzenegger in the lead. Seidelman was a journeyman director doing serving sentence on television’s white-bread TV dramas like Knots Landing, the Paper Chase and Fame, and every now and again, the networks would give him a movie to have his way with. A couple notables include the very sleazy Sin of Innocence, which featured teenaged step-children who are having a bit of a romantic affair (a classic with Bill Bixby and Dee Wallace as the parents) and the sordid tale of Bulmia, Kate’s Secret, Vomiting on network television, it was a first, unless you count Charles Nelson Reilly gagging on Paul Lynde’s rod during a break in taping Hollywood Squares. Seidleman, like I said was given a few plums. A feature he directed worth seeking out is 1987’s THE CALLER, which starred Malcolm McDowell in a nice little cabin in the woods type thriller. Seidelman has also been involved as director on huge stage production, HAIR being just one of the biggies.

I guess I should mention teenage daughter Lisa Yoman brought into being by Tammy Lauren. Lauren’s large coif was featured repeatedly on TV during the 80s but came into cult notoriety via Wes Craven’s WISHMASTER. If you can track down I Saw What You Did and I Know Who You Are, a creeped out made-for-TV affair, grab it. It’s her best work. She and a gal pal play crank phone caller and unknowingly phone a killer just after he finishes the job, it features both David and Robert Carradine, and the latter is the killer. Very tasty shit. To my knowledge Lauren has yet to do anything that we see much flesh in…damn it.

If you’ve been paying attention, it goes without saying, I have to recommend THE PEOPLE ACROSS THE LAKE. The last 30 minutes of the film are really quite good, to be honest with you, I’m a little shocked that this treatment didn’t wind up an actual feature, it could have been a nasty little R-rated number without much more of a budget. For all the ribbing the South gets in films with our nasty “no tourists” attitude, THE PEOPLE ACROSS THE LAKE effectively reminds us, people are people and we particularly like people who ain’t like us nosing around our haunts. Search this chuck of TV cheese out, Video Screams carries it in its uncut British release form…get you one.

A little bit of Gerald in the rubber for the ladies.

Okay, how about Johnny, young Johnny then.....

Okay, then superstud Barry will have to satisfy your female desires...note the bite on ol' Barry, that sez "good loving" gals...

Mail or
Discuss this baby.
More reviews.
Black Gestapo Black Exploitation?
Girl From Tobacco Row It's Good!
Rape Squad Join Today!
The Meateater Do Not Touch!
Dixie Dynamite POW!
Run Stranger Run Run Opie!
Horror House On Hwy 5 Sheesh!
Behind Locked Doors It's Dirty!
Nailgun Massacre Some Like It.
Bat Pussy It had to be done
Thunder Alley It is Rock.
Trucker's Woman Truck. Woman.
Blood Freak A Classic for You!
The Geek Bigfoot Porn
High School Ghosthustlers Wow!
Frankenstein Island You Must See!
SuperCock Not that kinda Cock!
The Alienator Feeling Alienated?
Angel Midnight Fantasy
Tanya's Island Vanity and the Beast
Killing Spree Tim Ritter's $0 budget wonder
Nightmare Prof. Tread still can't sleep.
Shanty Tramp She is sumpin' else.
If Footmen Tire You...? Heavy religiosity!
Viva' Knievel Evel of Course!
The Killing Of A Chinese Bookie! Smart Guy.
The Pink Angels Gayness, and Bikes
The Burning The 80's, ahhh the 80's.
Q - The Winged Serpant! Larry Cohen rules!
Fight For Your Life! WARNING Racist content
Walking Tall Buford Pusser in the Hizouse!
Sleepaway Camp Internet Geeks Unite!
Born Losers Ya Loser!
Shriek of the Mutilated Bro. George gets busy.
Bury Me An Angel Gal Biker and more.
The Grim Reaper Reap on.
Abby One of William Girdler's triumphs.
Deadbeat At Dawn A Modern Classic.
Sonny Boy Carradine, Dress, Dourif!
Great Hollywood Rape-Slaughter Rare expose'.
Savage Weekend. Take a break.
Dead and Buried. A Should-be Classic.
Hot Summer In Barefoot County. PeeUww!
Night Train To Terror Choo Choo!
I Drink Your Blood Glug, glug!
Vixen Russ Meyer and breasts!
Truck Stop Women Honnnk HonnnnK!
Daddy's Deadly Darling! Pigs!
Flesh Feast Maggots!
Soapy the Germ Fighter! Clean up!
Why Doesn't Cathy Eat Breakfast? Why?!
Moonshine County Express! Glug, Glug!
Twirl! Batons!
The Night God Screamed! Boo!
White Dog Racists Pets!
Hunter's Blood City Slickers get offed!
Devil Times Five Sean MacGregor's Titantic!
Terror at the Red Wolf Inn Burp!
Headless Eyes See It
World's Greatest Sinner One of the best!
The Baby! Goo Goo!
Summer Camp Nightmare Viva the Revolution!
Attack of the Beast Creatures Booga!
Let's Play Dead Incest craziness!
Island of Death Vacation madness!
Evil Come, Evil Go! Bye, Bye Sinners!
Darktown Strutters Get Black Sucker!
Poor Pretty Eddie Deep South Craziness!
Miami Golem Jewish Folklore or what?
Tenement NYC Apartment Blues
To Kill A Clown Alan Alda Vietnam Vet!
The Spook Who Sat Next To The Door Booya!
I Woke Up Early The Day I Died Mr. Ed Wood.
The Mutilation Man Andy Copp goes arty on us!
The People Across The Lake Good TV!
Wolfpack Shoulder-padded Nazis!
The Woman Hunt Load Up Gents.
The Devil At You Heels Daring Devil.
These Are The Damned Dammit!
Crowhaven Farm TV movie Classic!
...are some creeped out bastards

Chris Wayne
Gerald McRaney and Valerie Harper are city dwellers who have had enough of city living...and hitting neighbors with ball bats.

The Yoman brood is less than happy to end up at "the Lake."

Chuck Yoman decides sailboarding will be his ticket to the big time...

Director Arthur Allan Seidelman utilizes the beautiful cross fade, illustrated here...ahh, Chuck Yoman ladies....

These two think sailboarding is for city faggots...well I made that faggot part up cuz it sounded funny.

Chuck takes a dip with a rotting arm...which I'm guessing, sucks.

See, I'm right it does suck.

Creepy Viet Nam Vet, Henry Link, he's a dead-ringer for Bruce Dern.

Young John Bryce, the deputy, and crybaby...

Lovable Malcolm Bryce and his fresh white carnation.

I started to figure out about half way through the movie where the biggest part of the budget went...

Bad Hats...

and this pretty realistic corpse.....

Trust me, this picture is an important element in the plot.

Okay, now this is pretty scary.....

Okay, not as scary as this...

Now what in the Hell is crybaby John doing with an axe?

Or sweet old Malcolm for that matter?

Only Rhoda Morganstern knows for sure....
Brains On Film 2003