Cabin by the Lake
is a 2000 Made for TV horror movie.
Stanley Caldwell (Judd Nelson
) is suffering from writer's block while writing the script for a by-the-numbers Slasher Movie
. As his agent pesters him to get on with his work, he decides to put some of his favorite hobby into the story: serial murder. Stanley is actually an emotionless psychopath who kidnaps young women, keeps them captive inside his waterside cabin in the woods, then drowns them in the nearby lake. He keeps the corpses in an underwater cemetary he frequents.
His latest victim Mallory is miraculously saved by a local diving crew just after he dropped her off and left her for dead. The cops discover Stanley's crimes, but given the size of the lake and the number of boat owners can't narrow down the suspect. With this turn of events Stanley tries to write a different ending to his story...
It was followed by a 2001 sequel, Return to Cabin by the Lake
This film provides examples of:
Return to Cabin by the Lake provides examples of:
- All Part of the Show: Stanley is able to get away with his crimes more easily because he commits during the shoot of a horror movie. When he tries to carry a corpse to his car one of the assistants stops to help him and notes that he's carrying a fake prop body himself. The same assistant later thinks that a live electrocution that Stanley films was an intended part of the shoot. Allison later can't convince two oblivious actors that the "Assistant Director" is actually a murderous psychopath when he stages another on-set death.
- Asshole Victim: Stanley kills at least two people involved with the production of the movie who are also complete assholes (an obnoxious film director and a rude AD). It's partially karmic, but the sheer brutality of the kills (one is decapitated with a boat engine and another buried alive) is so disproportionate that it still emphasizes Stanley's murderousness.
- Berserk Button: Insulting Stanley's writing abilities will prompt him to fly into a murderous rage.
- Buried Alive: Stanley buries the director Mike Helton in a coffin six feet under while he relaxes in a chair seated on the ground on top of his victim while lighting some fireworks.
- Casting Couch: Cabin by the Lake's director Mike Helton sleeps with both of the female leads while promising them a future career in his movies.
- Dead Person Impersonation: Stanley infiltrates the film set by murdering the Assistant Director JC Reddick (a nephew of one of the Executive Producers) and impersonating him for the remainder of the shoot.
- Electrified Bathtub: In the climax, Allison tries to kill Stanley by knocking him into a bathtub and then throwing in a blowdryer. She ultimately relents because she doesn't want to become a killer like him and alerts the police who just arrived on the scene, but this just gives Stanley a chance to escape and disappear forever.
- Evil Laugh: Invoked. One of Stanley's early victims doesn't take his repeated attempts to murder him seriously and laughs at him like an idiot. After Stanley finally kills him with a boat engine, he lets out a genuinely villainous laugh.
- Executive Meddling: In-universe. The director constantly demands rewrites to include an out-of-place sex scene in the horror movie he's shooting.
- For the Evulz: The movie's script writer Allison, as part of her attempt to get inside the killer's mind, theorizes that there must have been something that drove Stanley to start murdering teenage girls, such as a bad childhood or his previous writing work never having been recognized. Stanley has to explain that there's no reason that he's as evil as he is; he just enjoys killing people.
- Fatal Method Acting: Subverted in-universe. Stanley stages at least two attempted murders on his film set. The first time he makes it look like an accident when one of the lead actresses is electrocuted by a defective light falling into a water tank, but she barely survives. The second time he doesn't even pretend it to be an accident and tries to have another actress drowned by weighing her down to the bottom, but Allison saves her by shooting through the tank.
- The Hyena: Assistant Director JC Reddick laughs like a maniacal idiot even when someone is trying to murder him. He stop just before Stanley cuts off his head with his boat engine.
- If You Kill Him, You Will Be Just Like Him: Allison tries to electrocute Stanley in his own bathtub in the climax, but she stops because she doesn't want to become a killer like him. She alerts the incoming authorities, but Stanley uses the opportunity to escape and dissapear forever.
- Karma Houdini: Stanley evades capture again and is living incognito in Los Angeles. The movie based on his crimes has been a major succes with a sequel on the way, and even though he hasn't profited from it financially his crimes have become renowned the world over. He ends the movie noting that he might start another murder spree.
- Never Found the Body: Stanley is believed to have died by the public and the authorities even though his corpse was never found. He repeats it all over when he escapes getting caught again in the climax.
- Nice to the Waiter: Stanley impersonates a Jerkass Assistant Director's driver who's constantly rude to him and threatens to have him fired several times.
- No Such Thing as Bad Publicity: The jerkass director who is making a profit of the memories of Stanley's dead victims notes that the campaigns to have his movie's production stopped has generated more publicity than his professional publicist ever could have.
- Prima Donna Director: The movie-within-a-movie Cabin by the Lake's director Mike Helton is a complete tool and sleaze who sleeps with his female leads in exchange for future job ofers, constantly hurls abuse at his co-workers, demands to micromanage every aspect of the production, and falsely claims to be an expert on the (not actually) deceased serial killer the film is about. After Stanley gets rid off him, no one except the two female starts really question his disappearance.
- Reminiscing About Your Victims: Stanley recalls Kimberly, his last succesful victim before his crimes were found out, quite well. He relays to Allison, a curious script writer, that she gave him "a good fight" and clawed at his arm as he daydreams about Kimberly.
- Reports of My Death Were Greatly Exaggerated: Stanley is quite happy that he's believed to have drowned in his own watery grave as it allows him to continue his killing spree undisturbed. After he reveals his true identity to Allison she can't believe it and notes his reported demise. He sarcastically reponds with an amused "Really?"
- Revealing Injury: Stanley eventually kidnaps the screenwriter who was doing research into his life, but she initially thinks he's just overdoing a Method Acting approach. He leans over to show her a scar on his arm from a late female victim, leading to the dawning realization that he's the monster she's been looking for.
- Revenge of the Sequel: The movie is called "Return" to Cabin by the Lake.
- Sinister Scythe: Stanley kidnaps a guy from the set who annoyed him to torture him to death. He grabs a set of increasingly scarier weapons from a shelf to scare the victim, ending with a scythe. When the victim claims that it's just a prop, Stanley pokes him with the blade to dissuade him from that notion.
- Stockholm Syndrome: Invoked. After Stanley takes over the production on Cabin by the Lake under his JC Reddick identity, he rewrites his interactions with Mallory in the previous film as if she starts desiring the serial killer who repeatedly abducted and tried to drown her. Allison later pretends that she's fallen for Stanley, but it's just an act to play to his ego and try to escape.
- Villain Protagonist: Even more so than in the first one, the story largely focuses around the murderous Stanley.
- Show Within a Show: It features the fictional shooting of a Cabin by the Lake movie based on Stanley's exploits.
- Too Soon: In-universe. After Stanley's murder spree at Lake Summit is uncovered and he's believed to have died himself, the studio execs whom Stanley sold his original script to almost immediately want to make a movie to profit off his sudden notoriety. This sparks a series of protests by the victims' families.
- You Monster!: A mob of protestors call the (presumed dead) serial killer Stanley a twisted monster. Near the end the heroine, after earlier attempts to understand the mind of the killer, notes that he's simply an evil bastard who doesn't deserve to live.
- Your Head Asplode: Subverted. Stanley sticks a firecracker into someone's ear as an Ironic Echo to a comment the guy made earlier about "lighting a firecracker under your ass". He puts it out just before it goes off, but he buries the man alive instead while lighting fireworks on top of his casket.