Deeply atmospheric and tonally akin to a variety of nefarious pseudo-procedural Asian imports of the past two decades (The Cure, Memories of Murder, The Wailing), Jet Leyco’s Town in a Lake opens with darkly gorgeous cinematography of headlights penetrating the periphery of a forest, all while an insidiously silent kidnapping takes place. Leyco slowly unfurls the next 80 minutes, introducing us to a variety of locals, most ambiguously invested in this crime (which is reinforced as an anomaly for the typically quiet town).
Building tension through carefully lensed, still shots, largely showing little but implying much, Town in Lake bears all the hallmarks of a well-crafted, disconcerting horror—until its payoff. While Leyco’s film concerns itself thematically with our communal notions of fear and our penchant for attributing evil to the outsider, habitually refusing to believe certain dangers lurk amongst us, the final fifteen minutes devolve into cheap, largely groundless supernatural abstraction, effectively undermining the success of the film’s realistic notions of terror that so thoroughly unsettle up until that point.
Published as part of New York Asian Film Festival | Dispatch 2.