The idea of the aquatic zombie has been one that always fascinated me. Starting in short fiction, it wasn't until 1957 with "The Zombies of Mora Tau" that it came to the screen. This continued with Ken Wiederhorn's 1977 cult favorite "Shock Waves", Lucio Fulci's "Zombi 2", Jean Rollin's uber sleazy but ultimately lukewarm "Zombie Lake", George Robotham's obscure "Dark Echoes" and even George A. Romero himself getting into it with "Land of the Dead." The idea of the undead dragging victims into a watery grave or simply rising to attack others is a unique premise, and one that Jay Woelfel tried in 2004 with "Ghost Lake." Too bad the end result is one of the weaker entries.
Rebecca Haster (Taturn Adair) is a grieving woman dealing with the death of her parents who goes to an upstate New York cottage owned by her parents to spend time to herself. She meets a man named Stan James (Timothy Prindle), who is a nominee for "most generic character name ever", and decides to pick up this stranger. She also starts to see supernatural images of people drowning. Turns out that there's a reason for this. Years ago, many people drowned while a dam was being constructed, and they will soon rise to claim some victims.
The movie does have these things going for it-plenty of atmosphere and the zombies. The dead here are rather creepy, taking on a more ghostly presence than one of a gang of mindless flesh eaters. Hell, the things owe very little to Romero or his contemporaries (apart from the obligatory backlit shot of the walking dead), as the movie aims for a more atmospheric style than a splatter movie. Unfortunately, that's all it has going for it.
For one thing, the movie is entirely too long at 112 minutes. If the whole thing had been 30 minutes shorter, this would be more excusable, but the length ends up making the movie a hassle to sit through. It also doesn't help that nobody here can act worth a damn in this movie, particualarly Adair, who can't act terrified in a convincing way at all. Horror movies like this need actors that are at least competent enough to carry it, but nobody here is. The movie may have tons of atmosphere, but after a while, it becomes obvious that it doesn't know what to do with all of it, and there's nothing worse than wasted atmosphere. To make matters worse, the score by Woelfel is really bad and repetitive, and ended up annoying me.
It's obvious that the director was aiming to do something different than the usual straight to video zombie flick, so he should at least be commended for that. However, the whole thing is just too lackluster to recommend, and probably won't gain more than a minor cult following in the future. Chalk it up an an ambitious failure.