When passionate people get together to do something creative for the sake of creating, it’s often well worth taking a look. And you’ll indeed be rewarded if you give the dramatic thriller, Amber Lake, a watch.

amber lake

I’m about to tell you about a suspenseful, thrilling movie that is so good you’re going to doubt my sincerity based on the amount of constant praise I’m going to be giving it. But here’s the thing. It’s a movie. This is mainly a – what? A TV site. A movie has to do something really spectacular for me to spend extra time to bring it to your attention. That’s just…math. Because you guys know I’d rather be singing along to the Glee soundtracks while I take an extra long shower when I have spare time. But last night I took an hour and a half of spare time (because it was time allotted for sleeping!) and watched Amber Lake.  And now I can’t stop thinking about how good it was, and how more people need to know about it. So, I’ll do my duty here and then I hope you guys take it to heart and pass it on, and the power of the people prevail!

To prep for an interview with MeKenna Melvin (Chuck) I learned she had starred and co-created this movie. (Look for the interview on Small Screen Scoop this weekend after the Chuck season 5 premiere.) Much as I adore MeKenna (do you read her twitter? she’s funny) that doesn’t mean much to me at that point. Lots of people are in movies, I don’t watch them all. But the Amber Lake synopsis demonstrated that this was a movie with a plot I hadn’t seen done before:

Three half-sisters, after being invited to their father’s lake house to meet him and each other for the first time, are each questioned by a local sheriff to explain the events that took place leading up to the discovery of their father floating dead in the lake. Using a Rashomon effect, each sister gives a slightly different account of the events, with each version pointing a finger at a different sister, while the sheriff must sort through the details to find out what really happened. What he discovers in the end is not what he expected. (from IMDB)

From there, I watched this interview with Melvin and her two female costars, Polly Cole and Natalie Smyka. I think it’s crazy interesting that the way this movie came together was not typical. These three intelligent and creative actresses had taken acting classes together decided they wanted to work together on a project. So then they just made it happen by putting together the project they all wanted to do. The entire process was collaborative.

Often a film needs big names to attract attention to it, and then you realize it’s a basically an unwatchable flop like Horrible Bosses. Here, the people involved aren’t A-list tabloid favorites with names you know, and there was a small budget. And yet it still comes across better than some films that have the huge budgets and huge stars.

They worked with what they had and made it (as Tim Gunn says) work. Like most indie films, it’s a bare bones type of thing that has to be good because it’s good, not because it has fancy extras. The film rises on its own merits of being a thoughtful and clever story with solid acting performances (I could praise these performances more directly if I wasn’t so afraid of letting this review spoil the movie for you – but suffice it to say that I felt like I could understand a lot of their choices, like I was right there with them in the moment – they tapped into human emotions and behavior in a very profound, true way) and artful directing.

Amber Lake is an intense, masterfully-crafted thriller. This is a smart, reflective movie where the time, energy and work put into it is very much evident as you watch. And it is well worth the viewing. (Especially if you enjoy psychology, a good mystery, and want a Halloween movie to watch that isn’t gorey but is still creepy.)

The movie also stars Timothy V. Murphy and Carmen Argenziano. Melissa Kite has a brief but impactful role, and I want to also mention Tiffany Puhy who plays another brief role but was also the costume designer for this film (which I thought was done so excellently – the way each of the three main female leads is defined with her clothing was really thoughtfully done.) Joe Robert Cole both wrote and directed Amber Lake, though the three leads (Melvin, Smyka and P. Cole) were also integral to the creation of the story.

Amber Lake is not on Netflix and I am not sure if it will eventually land there. But it is currently available to watch from several places (such as iTunes, Xbox 360 and Cinema Now.) I paid just $3.99 to watch it on Amazon Video on Demand. I streamed it while I ate some pumpkin pie and stayed up past my bedtime. Never getting bored for a second, and the serious mind-twister stayed with me long after the credits (and awesome song) played.

Don’t just be a passive entertainment admirer that settles for whatever most of America has decided to make popular. Get active. Be passionate about what you watch, and include TV and Films that will make you think. It’s rewarding. And it takes you from being a member of the generally populated audience to being someone who can call themselves a genuine fan.

Make sure to not only watch this film, but keep your eyes open for MeKenna Melvin, Polly Cole and Natalie Smyka. They are all genuinely talented rising stars to be labeled in the “ones to watch” category.

Visit the Amber Lake Official Movie Site for photos and more information.

Check out Amber Lake on Twitter.

Amber Lake on IMDB (There is another positive review posted there if you’d like to read more about the plot.)