Explaining the Confusing Movie Artifact Lake - because unless someone comes along and explains that ending I'm going to stay confused.
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To those of you who are regulars, this is a movie recommendation. To those of you that found me by saying to yourself “What the HECK?!?” as the movie ended – I’ve got you covered as well. To the former group – if you haven’t seen the movie yet, watch the trailer and then you can watch the movie here, or here. You are welcome. And for the rest of you – I got your answers. But first, let’s dispatch the interlopers. Alright? Onward, explaining the confusing movie Lake Artifact:
If you can make heads or tails out of that trailer, then you are a better individual than I am. Which is what made me so fascinated with this little indie flick, brought to us by Bruce Wemple. Come on, you know him…Bruce Wemple from Mia and the Vase? OK, so I didn’t either. But that is a super sweet little time/conundrum short film that is totally worth your while. Very sweet. And I see where Artifact Lake gets its ideas. So with that, let’s walk through Artifact Lake, and make sure everyone is on the same page…and then we’ll decrypt it at the end. Have you seen the movie yet though? You really can’t continue without watching it first – so you can click one of these simple links right here:
The movie opens with Vernon, running through the woods…as he’s being chased, by himself. One Vernon kills the other…and that is nothing if not a great opener. (THiNC. trivia – my first name is actually Vernon. VTHiNC. is actually the most accurate name for this site it would appear! But no one has called me Vernon since high school. Feel free to call me Vernon. I’ll just boot you off the site and delete your comments as fast as you can make them! hahaha. Just kidding…it’s all good. Call me Vernon all you like. Now, where was I?) Oh yes, the opener. Vernon kills Vernon. Got it. (Is this a metaphor for my life?)
Cut to interviews with members of the Hand of God church. Apparently they used to be called, Hand of One. But that was a cult. And now they are a legit church…and aren’t associated with the cult. We also see someone else who has spent his life investigating cults like The Hand of One. But this thread of interviews is just a way for the movie to convey facts to you about the surrounding the lake without being too expository. Basically, we learn that Vernon encountered a woman (Meredith Parlor?) at Scroon Lake (?) who told him he could have eternal life in exchange for a sacrifice. Well, he had a contest, twenty men in the woods, a competition of survival. And in October of 1953, it was a blood bath.
DAY 1 –
Cut to the four friends (Tommy – played by Thomas Brazzle, Grace – played by Catharine Daddario, Megan – played by Anna Shields, & Kip – played by Chris Cimperman) heading up to the lake for the weekend. Their car stops working, and they pick up a hitchhiker who also joins them for the ride, Thomas (Dylan Grunn). The group, upon arriving at the lake, immediately start experiencing stranger and stranger things. For example, photos of them, that couldn’t have happened, begin appearing. (Which, immediately reminded me of the movie Time Lapse. But that isn’t what is happening.) And there might be observers in the back of the photos.
Kip heads out to find food – but doesn’t return. So Tommy and Thomas go looking. And midway through an old man appears shouting Megan’s name over and over again. And Thomas saves the day by knocking him out.
DAY 2 –
The old man yells out to Megan again, having awakened from his concussion. The old man is obviously Kip. But what happened to him? But Megan tells everyone that he had died when she found him this morning. Which means, he said something critical… Meanwhile Thomas and Tommy just keep walking in circles throughout the woods, never leaving, and never returning back to the cabin. And later that night, Kip returns back home, and when he does, Megan goes after him with a knife, so they lock her in her room. That night, Thomas gets up to get a drink, but falls and dies? Something is going on here and I can’t make heads or tails of the different strands.
We learn from an expert aside that Young believed that from every decision or choice, a new reality was created. And there, that house by the lake, was at an intersecting point between them all. And strangely, familiar but foreign objects would continue appearing over the course of three days. And occasionally, he would witness his younger self entering the property as he left.
Day 3 –
Kip and Thomas find Thomas dead after his early morning excursion for water. When they check on Megan, they notice that her window was open, so they nail it shut. And Thomas’ body gets unceremoniously dumped in the garage. The next photo they find is of Tommy dead, as well as Megan. Are the photos showing their future? Or an alternate reality? Or both? But they are all starting to realize that only one person can emerge from this prison alive. Well, Megan remains with a gun, while Tommy and Grace leave in the car. But Kip kills Megan – which is when Kip says to Grace that he was glad that Megan never found out about them. Which means, that prior to the weekend, they had had an affair. But phew, she was killed before she found out! hahahah. Then, when Kip was about to kill Grace, Tommy saved the day by bashing Kip’s head in with a bat.
Historical Jump –
So it would seem that Young believed that the house had Satanic influences. And because only one person could survive in a given time thread, he always chose to go in solo. But during his visits, he believed that it would also bring out his deepest, darkest, and ‘truest’ self.
Thomas, stumbles into Vernon and another guy in the backseat. (That guy in the backseat? What is his deal? Is there a significance here that I am missing?) But Vernon was extremely clear to Thomas, though he thinks he wants to go into those woods, Vernon is not going in there. He’s a hundred years old, and “she” told me that she should could make me live forever.
End of Day 3 –
Tommy and Grace are talking about bailing on Megan if she doesn’t come back soon. But she is sprinkled in blood? And a moment later, she shoots Tommy in the back. And simultaneously Vernon tells Thomas to get in the car and to leave… he has to “save” the ones he can.
Day 1 – reset
Alright, so this movie gets confusing really fast… we meet the original four, but they aren’t the original four. They are loop timeline two (or more, we’ll get to that later.) But we need a way to refer to them. So, I say we should call them by their names, but “names2.” And the originals, I say we call them by their “names1.” Fair enough? (This is 100% wrong, but it’s the simplest way to do it for now.)
So, here, in the car, we have Tommy2, Grace2, Megan2, & Kip2. And they are exactly emulating their prime counterpart’s original arrival in the woods. When, Tommy1 comes flying out of nowhere, hitting the hood of the car, completely freaking out. He appears to be running from Grace1. Well, Grace1 makes things simple really fast, because she shoots Tommy2, Grace2, Megan2, & Kip2 dead. At least I believe that is what happens. And Tommy1 keeps limping/running from Grace1. And when Grace1 is about to kill Tommy1, Thomas1?/2? arrives and intervenes. Oh, and MeganX arrives (didn’t Megan1 die? Is this Megan2? Or could she1 have survived? WHAT IS HAPPENING?) as well, and she stabs Grace1. (Literally, my notes at this point literally say, “How? Mumble Mumble LAUGH???”
Interlude – Finale
We learn that one of the members of this crew, one of the survivors, is the one interviewing the members of the Hand of God church. They are the one that is also chatting the historian as well. It is one of the members of our crew, but we don’t know which one. And by their response, we learn that they want to expose the members of the Hand of God church. “Of course you do.”
Cutting back to the woods – we see Tommy?, and Thomas?… standing at the edge of the woods. And they are talking like they know each other, but we quickly realize that they don’t. It is really unclear which Tommy, and Thomas we are looking at here. Until, that is, Thomas, out of the blue, says… “Have we met before?” And at that moment, we know we are talking to at least Tommy2 (or later?) and probably that is Thomas1. And with that, we fade to black. WAIT… WHAT??!
What The Heck Just Happened??
There’s a lot going on in this little film. And literally, no one is talking about it. Not sure why. Not sure how. But it’s up to you, and me, to figure this thing out. It’s our CIVIC DUTY to sort it, so that when future individuals watch this film and go, WHAT? They can turn to us and read the comments and go… AHHHH. OK. Got it. Now, the first step in this psychological restoration would be our attempt at understanding the system with which Artifact Lake operates under.
Rule #1 – Regardless of how many enter Artifact Lake, only one can leave. To that end, if only one entered, one could leave. If more than one entered, everyone but the survivor will die.
Rule #2 – It would seem that the gestational period is three days. You know, belly of the whale number of days. Number of days in the tomb, number of days. And after that, if you were the designated survivor, you could leave.
Rule #3 – Apparently, any decisions, or course corrections, might also create alternate realities? Which basically means, rules one and two are more suggestions than anything else, and throws literally everything else out the window. Not sure exactly what to do with this one.
But these “rules” create more questions than they answer. For example… what happens when 2 people walk in, and they refuse to kill each other? When they don’t get down to one survivor? Do they just cycle back to Day 1 all over again? I think? Yeah, that seems to be correct. And what’s the deal with Vernon entering, and watching as his older self departs? Does an exit have to accompany an entrance? Or, is it naturally creating a new alternate reality where WorldX abuts (Holy cow, is abuts even a word? Hahaha! That just doesn’t look like a word to me right now. HAHAHAH ABUTS! Sorry, this movie is causing me to mentally melt down apparently) WorldY and it abuts WorldZ and so on? And where the two realities meet momentarily, we see these discrepancies with humans and time ripping?
The Ending of Lake Artifact Explained
The only way to explain the ending of Lake Artifact is to memorize rule #3 and hold on to it for dear life. And it is this rule – alternate realities and such – that reminds me of a movie that is near and dear to my heart… Coherence. And in that movie, it’s a similar setup, wherein there is a house, that, if anyone leaves the house, and then attempt to come back, they won’t ever come back. Sure, they come back to A house. But not THAT house. Here, here is a sketch I did for that movie, and how the red person leaves the left circle, and heads back to the left circle. Instead of going back, they cross a barrier, and instead go to the right circle. Which, appears to be left circle, but, in fact, is not. Here, study this drawing. It has religious and spiritual meanings to it. Trust me. Study it. Because this is the easy diagram.
OK? Does that make sense? For this movie, this issue would work like this: I am at Cabin A. I leave Cabin A, and I go looking for a way out. But I run around in circles for a day, and eventually make my way back. But not back to Cabin A, but rather to Cabin B. And while things might be similar…they aren’t exactly the same. In Cabin B, we might have taken a photo together by the lake. We might have lost a member to Cabin C. I don’t know. But it isn’t Cabin A. I am not in Kansas anymore Dorothea. Now, see if you can grok this at a much deeper layer. If we envision this happening at scale now. I don’t leave once, I don’t leave twice, but I leave 5 times, and each time, I flux into and out of new timelines, new realities. And as I leave the Cabin in search of my TRUE Cabin home, I continue bouncing from reality to reality. All where there are 5 people (plus or minus) vying for their lives, in order to survive and be the last ones out the door.
It’s the only way to really understand the photographs, and the weird inconsistencies that we experience throughout the film. In Coherence, there was a method by which the people in the houses attempted to keep track of what world they were in. They used color glow sticks, ping pong paddles, stuffed monkeys and the like, to uniquely distinguish one world from the other. This movie didn’t give us these sorts of shibboleths, or totems that we could hold on to, in order to keep the players straight.
Even with this level of ambiguity – we know that one loop collided with another loop. And, maybe even a third loop. And during this collision, there were three survivors from loop 1 that collided with the four new versions of our intrepid heroes that were in the car (Was there a second version of Thomas? Or did he stay outside of the forest on the advice of the immortal Vernon?) The four new visitors in the car were probably killed all but instantly. (Hopefully…because that makes this a whole lot easier to understand.) And, we see at the very end of the movie, Tommy1, and Thomas2+? talk – and we think that Thomas knows what’s going on… but he doesn’t. He’s new to the loop. He walked in late, saw the slaughter, gave Tommy1 his condolences, and then asks, “Do I know you?” And with that, we know that Thomas2 left Vernon outside of the forest, and headed in only to discover the mayhem.
No? Heck, if you think you got a better theory about what happened at the end, you have to share it with all of us dangit!