Found Footage Fatigue Sets in with The Land of Blue Lakes (2021)
Title: The Land of Blue Lakes
First Non-Festival Release: October 2, 2021 (Digital/Streaming Platforms)
Director: Arturs Latkovskis
Writer: Arturs Latkovskis
Runtime: 73 Minutes
Starring: Arturs Latkovskis, Veronika Rumjanceva, Alina Sedova
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
A group of friends get together to go on a five-day trip consisting of canoes and camping in a region of the country known as The Land of Blue Lakes. As the teenagers make merry and enjoy nature, they discuss the history behind the region. Legend says Latvian pagans have lived in the lakes for centuries, practicing ritualistic human sacrifice to continue their way of life. As the group wades deeper into the glades of the marshes, they inch perilously closer to the dangers that await them in The Land of Blue Lakes.
Painfully derivative, The Land of Blue Lakes wastes a perfectly good premise with lake horror empty of substance and entertainment.
There isn’t much of a story here. The crew paddles from island to island while talking about mostly unrelated nonsense from their lives. When it comes to story, there are a few mentions of pagan lore and history that one of the characters intersperse between other characters shooting the shit, but otherwise there isn’t much done to develop the plot. Part of the charm of the film is waiting for things to sour and watching bad things go down, but it feels cheap in the end. This is especially true when maybe ten minutes of the entire film attempt to escalate the horror of the situation.
The Land of Blue Lakes doesn’t develop its characters truly. There is no growth, no story, no motivation. As organic as it gets, this film follows a group of people that genuinely look act like they are friends before getting caught in a bad situation. It fits to the style but doesn’t make for good cinema. The lack of development makes it hard to feel invested in the characters. Sure, this is meant to be an underground video on the web, it wouldn’t make sense for it to be too narratively stitched together, but it is still a film. Without proper characters it falls flat on its face before it can make any sort of impact.
A good mix of shots are used to share the journey of the teenagers over the course of their trip. Go pros, phones, and even some interesting 360 shots are use here to varying effect. If the film had made more of this to highlight the found footage angle. One scene, halfway through the film sees someone picking up a camera at night to zoom in on the teenager’s faces. The film did not need to specifically add more scenes like this to be successful, but more or escalating interactions between the antagonists and the protagonists would have made for a more satisfying and engaging watch. I will commend The Land of Blue Lakes for its distinct gritty feel. It does make up, a little, for its lack of a strong narrative.
I went into The Land of Blue Lakes excited and genuinely wanting to enjoy it before getting lost towards the end. A patchwork of ideas and scenes ripped from better films, The Land of Blue Lakes lacks the originality or finesse to pull off the heavy burden of differentiating itself from the crowd. Devoid of a true story, meaningful character development, and establishing a cohesive narrative it fails on a storytelling level. What it gets right, which is part of the charm for some viewers, is its ability to create something that looks like it could be a collection of videos taken by a group of friends who mysteriously vanish. To me, it’s one of those frustrating moments where good intentions don’t translate to the best outcomes. I laud the filmmakers for trying but it just does not work. Found footage fans and fans of foreign films may rejoice in the Latvian charm but otherwise there are better places to explore.
Overall Score? 3.5/10