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