Terror At Tenkiller

Title: Terror At Tenkiller (1986)
Rating: 2/5
Genre: Horror, drama
Starring: Stacey Logan, Michelle Merchant, Mike Wiles
Director: Ken Meyer
Duration: 87 mins

Leslie is a meek college student with a domineering, spoiled, and sometimes violent boyfriend, Josh, who is too much for her to be with any longer. Her friend Janna invites her to take a vacation up at her father’s cabin at Tenkiller Lake to keep her mind off him. Once they are settled at the cabin, everything seems to be going just fine. They both land jobs at a diner, relax by the lake, and meet a handsome boat mechanic named Tor. But someone is leaving creepy messages on the answering machine. And little do Leslie and Janna know that someone is killing off some of the locals. Could it be Leslie’s obsessive boyfriend, or someone far worse?

If you ever see this movie, you won’t have to wait long to find out the answer to this question. The film’s biggest mistake is unveiling the antagonist around the 30 minute mark and STILL proceeding to set up red herrings along the way to the climax. I guess someone failed suspense school. While the storytelling may not be very well constructed, it does seem to delve into some real life issues. Janna’s dialogs with Leslie are saturated with feminist themes like “standing up for yourself” and “taking some control.” However, since these two 30-somethings passing themselves off as college students are secluded from the stress at home, Janna’s empowering rants seem to pop right out of nowhere. And here we now identify the film’s second biggest mistake: too much blah, blah, blah. Terror At Tenkiller is heavy on the chit chat. Usually I don’t comment on stuff like this, but it’s the same conversation over and over again. Spice it up a bit, chicks!

Speaking of spicing it up, this would’ve been a good move on the part of the filmmakers. The first 5 minutes set this film up to be a grade-A, exploitive slasher movie by giving us a bloody death and a brief, yet steamy, shower scene. Sure there are some titillating kills and partial nudity that follow, but not enough to keep the casual, non-feminist viewer’s attention. This movie has a pretty low body count, but succeeds in making the kills look realistic, if unimaginative. The reason that I have labeled this film a drama as well as a horror is because nothing much seems to happen. Maybe I’m misrepresenting dramas with that statement, but I see this movie as a Hallmark Channel special with sadistic murder sequences thrown in.

Let’s see, what else? This was made in the 80’s, and Leslie’s hideously conservative wardrobe more than points this fact out. Who dresses their actors with costumes that make them look fat? Perhaps this is another feminist aspect of the picture, but that god-awful, repugnant floral outfit! Yuck. At least the picturesque location makes up for the terrible fashion. Tenkiller Lake, as ominous as it sounds, looks like a very nice vacation spot and gives this film a warm and inviting feel to it. Not what you look for in a horror film, but pleasant nonetheless. The lighting can be very dark at times, making it hard to see what’s happening, but other times effectively sets the right mood to a scene. Lastly, the soundtrack is nothing but synthesizer-driven elevator music. Easy listening, but sleep-inducing.

After reading this, you’d probably think I’d be crazy to have a little place in my heart for this movie, but I do. While the pace is very slow and the action is minimal, I have a soft spot for relatively light-hearted horror. It reminds me of staying at my grandparent’s cabin at Big Bear Lake, and the cheesy tenderness of the characters warms me up like hot chocolate. Oh brother, just listen to me. I’m getting in touch with my feminine side.



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