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Roth’s horror flick ‘Lake Mead’ drowns among competition

Producer, actor and writer Eli Roth and I have a lot in common. We both speak Russian. We are both rooted in the East Coast. We both have a love for David Lynch’s work. We both went to school for filmmaking. And we both were in Boulder City during 2014.

If you’re not familiar with Roth’s work, you’re missing out. Many people in the movie industry refer to him as “the future of horror.” His signature writing style is usually rooted in torture, which is a bit ironic, considering his father worked as a psychiatrist who went on to become a clinical professor at Harvard Medical School.

Roth’s breakthrough work was a 2002 film tilted “Cabin Fever.” The New York Times called it “an unusually potent blend of dread, gore and gallows humor.” The film was written, directed and partially produced by Roth. After being picked up by Lionsgate at the Toronto Film Festival, and properly marketed on a national level, Roth’s first movie made more than $35 million.

After making a name for himself, Roth went on to launch the “Hostel” movie series. He started to work alongside his hero, Lynch, and other masters of horror, such as musician-turned-movie-mogul Rob Zombie. In September 2012, Roth also opened a haunted house, Eli Roth’s Goretorium, in Las Vegas.

In 2014, Roth brought his brand of horror back to Las Vegas and parts of Boulder City for a movie called “Lake Mead.” Along with actress-turned-producer Colleen Camp (“The Dean Martin Show”), Roth was going to attempt to create a “Jaws”-like fear of getting into the water again with “Lake Mead.” According to IMDB.com, the premise was “A journalism student, Lilly, disappears while making a documentary about water levels at Lake Mead. When Lilly’s cousin Erica goes searching for her, she comes to learn that some mysterious and deadly ‘entities’ lurk beneath the surface.”

The Las Vegas Review-Journal and the Havasu Sun publicized Roth’s upcoming movie with citywide searches for extras, including 37 speaking parts. Roth was specifically interested in hiring boaters who knew Lake Mead well. He was quoted by the Review-Journal as specifically seeking “somebody in their 70s who’s been fishing at Lake Mead every Saturday for the last 40 years.”

However, it seems “Lake Mead” has since drowned in the competitive horror market within the realm of Hollywood. After scouting out talent and partial shooting, the movie was canned, and Roth moved onto his next project, a 2015 film starring Keanu Reeves called “Knock Knock.”

Unlike the premise of “Lake Mead,” “Knock Knock” intended to scare people using psychology, not monstrous creatures. “Knock Knock” was billed as an “erotic thriller” by Lionsgate Premiere, and it took Roth away from Lake Mead and to another country for an inexpensive movie shoot. The premise of “Knock Knock” examines the depths of temptation followed by living with the fear of being caught after a one-night stand. The film was made for less than $2 million, bringing in a respectful profit but mixed reviews.

There is no official word if “Lake Mead” will ever surface. The film’s status is listed as in post-production, although Hollywood insiders are hesitant to say if the film will ever make it into theaters or debut as a digital release for an on-demand entertainment portal like Amazon or Netflix.

On a side note, Roadtrippers.com has a section of places to visit where horror movies have been filmed. For example, the travel website notes the fictitious Amity Island created for Steven Spielberg’s “Jaws” was actually filmed around Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts. The website notes tourism to Martha’s Vineyard (and the restaurants around where filming took place) tripled in the year after the movie’s debut.

Other travel websites also have special sections dedicated to helping people plan their vacations around iconic movie locations. My hope, on this Throwback Thursday, is that “Lake Mead” will premiere in the near future, and the attention gained from the movie pays off by way of tourist-driven interest and revenue for Lake Mead and Boulder City.

Tanya Vece is an entertainment and music writer who resides and volunteers in Boulder City. You can follow her adventures on Instagram @hollywoodwriter.

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