|If you're looking for the people across the lake (the actual people, not the movie), you may want to begin with an online people search. Know your neighbors! There may be secrets worth uncovering.|
"Tired of the city's crime and pollution, Chuck (Gerald McRaney) and Rachel (Valerie Harper) Yoman decide to abandon their careers and move their family to a picture-perfect cottage near peaceful Tomahawk Lake. There, they open a windsurfing-board business and soon begin to enjoy the simplicity of small-town life - until Chuck finds a dead body in the lake. Before the sheriff arrives, the body disappears, and their new neighbour Malcolm Bryce (Barry Corbin) insists that Chuck was mistaken, that there was no body. Town gossip Ruth Mortimer (Dorothy Lyman) tells Rachel of a series of unsolved murders in the area and that one of the suspects is Henry Link (Daryl Anderson), a mysterious survivalist who lives in the woods near Tomahawk Lake. So when the Yomans discover a second body in the forest, they begin to wonder if their new community is any safer than the city they left behind. Before too long, they discover a terrible secret about the community and their new home."
It's widely believed that the early-mid 70's were the golden era of the made for TV horror movie; from DUEL (1971) to DON'T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK? (1973), HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS (1972) to TRILOGY OF TERROR (1975). Sadly, it was inarguably past its golden-age by date when this anemic effort first aired.
Valerie Harper (here playing the kind of role she could do in her sleep) has appeared in some much better small screen horrors, like the semi-slashers NIGHT TERROR (1977) (where she's terrorised by a psychopath and chased across the dessert in her car) and the sublime, and still pretty scary, classic DON'T GO TO SLEEP (1982) (where her and her family are haunted and stalked by her dead daughter). Here she plays Rachel, a middle-aged suburban Mother who longs to move out of the crime ridden city (Los Angeles), where her and her family live behind doors bolted and alarmed with the latest state-of-the-art security systems. The final straw comes when she spies a neighbour looking through the bathroom window at her. After calling the police they realise it was only a false alarm; Stevie (Gregory Togel), her son, points out, "Mom, thought she saw a pervert at the window, only it was Mr Alexis!". Still, this was enough and her and her husband, Chuck (Gerald McRaney), agree to move away from the crime ridden big smoke to the supposedly idyllic back water of small town Tomahawk, after finding a picture box lakeside house.
Lisa (Tammy Lauren, who was, incidentally in the TV remake I SAW WHAT YOU DID the same year), the impressively big-haired, delinquent daughter isn't too keen on the idea of the move: "I don't want to be a redneck!", she whines, and then continues on with an aside to her Mom, "What are you going to do, bake bread? This isn't the 60's!"; to which Chuck shoots back, "Put your seatbelt on - over your mouth." ... Off they go into the great outdoors in their station wagon, accompanied by the kind of inspirational pan pipe abomination you might hear in an 80's Mac Donald's instructional video with spotty, be-mulletted teenagers learning how to flip burgers.
They settle into their dream home, and for a while they feel like they've made the right choice, with Chuck making a go of his surfboard making business and Rachel spending her time adjusting the home-sweet-home needlepoint picture that hangs in their hallway. But, when Chuck goes swimming in the lake, he finds himself entangled in pond weed and a rotting severed arm! However, when he returns with the police the body part has vanished; the locals accuse him of scaring off tourists with his stories. However, the young deputy Sheriff, Johnny, admits, off-the-record, that there have been at least three unsolved murders involving mutilated bodies in the last fifteen years. They try and put it all at the back of their minds, but when they find yet another decomposing body on their property they wonder if their country idyll isn't actually more dangerous than the metropolis they left behind ...
THE PEOPLE ACROSS THE LAKE has a vaguely intriguing premise: why are mutilated and decayed corpses continually turning up around this seemingly peaceful house by the lake? It even has a short pre-credits sequence where a woman, with red shiny shoes escapes at night, from the same house the where the family had now moved into, only to be murdered by an unseen assailant; her body rowed out into the middle of the lake, but her killer deciding not to dump the body at the last moment (followed by the legend, "15 years later", taking us into the present day). It's a shame, then, that the movie then moves at a relative snail's pace for its first three quarters.
Valerie Harper convinces as the ex-suburban Mom, but it's a bit more awkward when she shifts into Nancy Drew mode. Her drive to find out who the killer is seems contrived, especially when the makers fall back on that hoary old plot device: the secret door leading to a hidden lair. Things perk up a bit with a small slasher movie parody, when Lisa and her teenage friend are stalked by a figure in the woods with a dripping, bloody knife who, despite the classic killer's point-of-view turns out to be the kid brother playing a trick (another early 80's slasher movie standby). Things, however, perk up considerably when we find out who is behind the rash of murders, culminating in a double-axed assault on the family home and some agreeably over-the-top, scenery chewing dramatics and a satisfyingly fiery finale.
THE PEOPLE ACROSS THE LAKE is an agreeable time waster, but isn't something you should go out of your way to track down. For a really creepy time check out Harper's earlier foray into small screen terror, the great DON'T GO TO SLEEP.
female:3 / male:5
1) Female stabbed in the stomach
2) Male body seen
3) Male body part found
4) Male found with throat cut
5) Female body found
6) Female body found
7) Male body found
8) Male hit in the back with a flying axe