Lake House | Concept Inspiration
Updated: Oct 24, 2021
Set in 1920s upper state New York in an opulent mansion owned by the eccentric Cabot family. A group of wealthy artists and intellectuals spend a bohemian summer together along the shores of Lake George. Their paths cross with a group of vengeful Gypsies and while passions are awakened, darker things are awakened too.
This inspiration blog is meant to be read in conjunction with Lake House on the concepts page of the website.
What initially gave me the idea for this concept was Hotel. I really enjoyed the 1920’s sequences and learning about the origin stories of the Countess and James March. I was inspired to revisit some of the excesses and glamour of the Gatsby era....so, in this concept you will find vengeful gypsies, the werewolf mythos, Lovecraftian legends, ghosts, personal fortunes, family secrets, hedonism, tension-filled dinner parties, a creepy lake shrouded in mist at night, and unrequited love and passion.
The setting is a stretch of houses along idyllic Lake George, known as “Millionaire’s Row” which used to be a mecca for summer holidays for the likes of Spencer Trask and John D Rockefeller. These estates were massive and although their owners referred to them as “summer cottages” they were far from it and had dozens of bedrooms and huge areas of living space.
In contrast to the wealth of Millionaires Row there is the poverty of the gypsy camp - the gypsies are the main antagonists that worm their way into the Cabots' lives. During the earlier part of the 20th Century it was quite common to get your fortune told by a gypsy. This was often at tea-houses, fashionable establishments that offered palm reading, tarot and divination by tea leaves. Bohémien was a common term used by the French for the roving Romani people of the 17th century. To describe someone as a bohemian means that they are free spirited, a free thinker, and a person that often leads an unconventional lifestyle - very much in the spirit of the gypsies. In the 1920's bohemian and gypsy style became very chic and influenced a lot of fashion design. It's also why I thought that gypsies would make the perfect fit as the main antagonists for this particular time period and setting. Gypsies are also renowned for inflicting curses on people, and the vengeful gypsy is used as a trope in horror films such as Drag me to Hell and Steven King's Thinner.
One other horror trope that AHS hasn’t touched on yet is werewolves. There may be an obvious reason for this in that it would be a huge burden on the make-up and special effects budget. The other reason is, which I think is more likely, is how to pull off the transformation successfully without it appearing completely lame-o. The answer is by giving the character clinical lycanthropy so they think they are a werewolf, but they don’t actually turn into one. Imagine "the beast" in the movie Split, there was not a physical change but a psychological shift which was just as terrifying. There have been a few hundred cases of people with clinical lycanthropy, the most recent was Palm Beach student Austin Harouff who in 2016 was found by police naked on top of his victim, gnawing at the face and growling. There are even more famous cases such as that of Englishman Bill Ramsey, the Southend Werewolf . Paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren heard about the case and organised an exorcism on a supposed "werewolf demon."
The Sin of Sloth
This concept embodies the sin of Sloth. The Cabots are typical of the idle rich. They are hedonistic, lazy and prefer to live a bohemian lifestyle. They expect their mother to bail them out financially all the time and they have servants to clean up their mess. They have no real responsibilities, and a seemingly bottomless pit of money, so they can afford to lead a life of leisure. None of the Cabot siblings have a “real” job or purpose, they are content to dabble in creative pursuits and live off the family money. Kevin is the only commercially successful one. Sloth is the avoidance of physical work and responsibility, and Alan Cabot is the laziest of the lot shirking his duties as "man of the house". Just like the idiom the devil finds work for idle hands to do, he gets bored easily and then seeks entertainment by belittling and tormenting others. Similarly his daughter Molly is often bored and seeks attention by acting out and creating mischief - because boredom is the devil's delight.
One of my favourite AHS characters was the murderous man-child Dandy Mott. We know about Gloria, but what about the man who fathered Dandy? With the character of Charles Edward Mott I wanted to explore if the apple really doesn't fall that far from the tree. Of course Finn Wittrock has to come back and play Mott senior.
There is also another Freak Show connection to a young Ethel Darling ( played by Kathy Deitch in AHS ). I loved the flashbacks and seeing 1920's Ethel in her prime as a bright young thing dancing on stage with the follies girls. I wondered about her life before she became a vaudeville sensation and how she was discovered, so she appears briefly in Lake House at a travelling side show that Kevin Cabot drags everyone along to.
Charles Mott and Hubert T. Horder (Chaz Bono) are both Allan Cabot's guests and he has invited them purely because they are odd personalities that he can make fun of. Just like in the movie Dinner for Schmucks, he and Georgina have a cruel bet going. In contrast, Kevin Cabot has invited more salubrious and glamorous guests like Mimi Brown (Angela Bassett) and her designer husband Thierry for the summer, along with F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald for the party weekend. There are a lot of different personalities spending time together and although it is supposed to be a peaceful getaway for some there are plenty of histrionics, tension and fireworks - expect the dinner party from Hell.
Left to Right: A Midsummer Night's Dream; Ghost Story; Gothic; King of the Gypsy's; and Wolfman.
I’ve used certain elements from the movie version of Shakespeare’s play A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1999) which exemplifies love, passion, magical creatures, and the pagan celebration of Midsummer’s Eve. The Cabots embrace anything bohemian, so it is also the chosen theme of Marigold’s costume party held on the expansive grounds of their lake estate. The play’s premise of unrequited love and mistaken identity is also played out in Lake House when Edie Fraser uses a gypsy potion to get Kevin Cabot to love her, but instead of Kevin, she encounters the gypsy Marco who believes he is a werewolf. Puck is a trickster in the play and the fairies often manipulate the humans, just as Baba Zoya, Magdelana and the other gypsies manipulate the Cabots.
Ghost Story (1981) is an underrated horror gem that starred Hollywood legends Fred Astaire and Douglas Fairbanks Jr as members of the "Chowder Society", a men’s club that used to get together every week to share horror stories. Based on the 1979 novel by Peter Straub (one of my all-time favourite writers of the horror genre) the film is about the ghost of a young woman seeking revenge on those that have wronged her. This was the inspiration for Lady Gaga’s character, the gypsy Magdelana, who comes back to seek revenge on the Cabot family for a crime committed by Marigold’s now deceased husband when he was a young man.
Gothic (1987), is another Ken Russell film. It's about the 19th century bad-boy poet, Lord Byron, and a famous contest held at a summer house on Lake Geneva. At the urging of Byron guests had to make up a ghost story, and the most terrifying was deemed the winner. It was the amateur writers, however, who went on to have the most success. Also at the house was English poet Percy Shelley with his (then) girlfriend Mary who produced Frankenstein. Byron's doctor, John Polidori, spawned the vampire genre with his short story The Vampyre. Both stories were literary sensations, and so 1816 became known as the year when the horror genre was born. Alan Cabot is like the eccentric Lord Byron character in the film that goads his dinner guests into revealing their darkest secrets and what terrifies them the most. Like Byron, Alan is also a poet, fond of drugs and drink, and has a tendency to spiral out of control.
King of the Gypsies (1978) was a breakout role for a very young Eric Roberts, who looks strikingly like his daughter Emma in this. The film explores the close-knit culture, customs, passions, and mythos of a group of modern day gypsies living in New York. Things like arranged marriages, vengeance, fortune telling and making a living by scamming people appear as traits of the gypsies in Lake House also. Shelly Winters' pipe-smoking gypsy queen in the movie was the basis for Kathy Bates' character, Baba Zoya.
The original Wolfman (1941) starring Lon Chaney Jr was not the first ever werewolf movie made, it was preceded by Werewolf of London made in 1935. However, it was the first to use the connection to a gypsy curse which is what happened to Marco (Matt Bomer). In the movie Lon Chaney's character is bitten by the gypsy Bela while he was in wolf form, and so passes on the curse. In Lake House though, the lycanthropy curse is passed on by sexual intercourse, and it is how Edie (Lily Rabe) gets the affliction from Marco. So it's kind of like a supernatural STD.
...thank you. I haven't started writing this story yet, it's still in my head. Follow the blog and social media to receive updates.