APRIL 10, 2010
SOURCE: THEATRICAL (REGULAR SCREENING)
While the average movie-goer may think that The Black Waters Of Echo's Pond is one of the worst movies they ever saw, a "seasoned vet" like me is happy to report that it's really not that bad. Its biggest problem is its inexplicable, just shy of wide (400 screens) theatrical release, which carries expectations that the film has no chance of living up to, such as being well-acted across the board and technically proficient from start to finish.
On the other hand, no one but horror fans or Robert Patrick completists would possibly be interested in this thing, and thus they had to have seen their fair share of DTV fodder in their lives. So in a way, it's kind of novel to go to the local multiplex and see the film playing next door to Clash of the Titans and Date Night. It delivers the After Dark Horrorfest experience in a whole different month (and in slightly better theaters - this one's playing at the Mann's Chinese 6!).
In fact, the film is very similar to this year's ADF entry Kill Theory, crossed with the execrable Open Graves. Like Graves, our group finds an ancient board game and begin to play it (despite having no discernible way of knowing what the game's objective is) and unknowingly unleashes its supernatural power. But whereas that film turned into a sort of Final Destination-lite series of convoluted kill scenes, Echo's Pond pulls a Kill Theory and has the group start killing each other; lashing out in extreme ways after certain secrets (cheating with best friend's girlfriends, fucking one another over at work, etc) come to light. Not the worst setup, and not even the worst execution really - there are times when the film is a lot of fun, and the gory carnage (a chainsaw factors in!) is both surprising and delightful. One death in particular I didn't see coming, and that it was so ridiculously bloody on top of that made it quite laudable.
But it's definitely got major problems. For starters, there are way too many characters (nine, plus Patrick, who spends most of the film wandering around outside looking for traps that he set), which director Gabriel Bologna doesn't seem to be able to handle. Awkward closeups, god-awful editing, and characters disappearing entirely (Danielle Harris seemingly takes close to a half hour to walk from the kitchen into the living room) are the order of the day. And that's just the technical problems; it also carries some story-telling issues, mainly that we never get a clear idea of how everyone knows each other (the blond chick who apparently did a porno - how is she part of this group), time that could have been used to explain why an Eastern European guy (Arcadiy Golubovich) has a redneck uncle in Maine (Patrick). And again, the acting ranges from good (Nick Mennell, Danielle Harris) to typical (James Duval delivers his umpteenth stoner guy performance - isn't he close to 40 by now?), to asschristingly terrible (Golubovich, Mircea Monroe, and the Avellan twins (crazy babysitter chicks from Planet Terror), who are hot as hell but can't act worth a shit). Fewer characters = fewer bad actors required. It's science.
It also leaves WAYYYY too much to the audience's imagination. Harris and Monroe apparently have a lesbian tryst, but while they do, we watch two of the male characters argue about work ethics. Thanks, Bologna. The Avellans apparently trade boyfriends at one point, but we never know if anything they are accusing each other of doing actually happened. Monroe is the only one that ever bares her chest, and even THAT is a flaw as she has supposedly gotten a boob job but they look pretty real to me. Many of the deaths are also off-screen or the victim of the creative cutaway, so that we see blood flying around but not any actual penetration or prosthetic work. Why isn't this movie premiering on Syfy, again?
Oh and Harry Manfredini composed the score, so you know your ears are in for the polar opposite of a treat. In addition to his standard synth-y nonsense, he also has this repeated thing that can best be described as the sound a game timer might make as it reaches down to zero, like "Beeeep... beeep...beep, beepbeep, beepeepeepeepeepepepep BEEP!" He uses that one about thirty times in the movie, each one more grating than the last. Can this man please retire already?
Luckily, there are some cute homages for horror fans to enjoy while trying to ignore Harry's assault on their aural senses. Duval plays croquet at one point, which seems to be an obscure reference to The Shining (book, or TV movie), and at one point Harris finds herself on the roof (which has no set up whatsoever - again, the editing on this movie is at times criminally bad), hanging onto the top slant, as the killer swings at her from the other side, a complete recreation of her rooftop scene in Halloween 4.
Also, the supernatural entity that presumably causes all of this stuff is an anthropomorphic goat. Every time they cut to him/it, I laughed heartily. They really should have used him more. Hell, maybe they could have had the lone survivor fight it at the end instead of using a "twist" that is sure to cause everyone to groan (especially if they have seen Open Graves, since it had the same fucking twist - it's even implemented the exact same way!). If Echo's Pond becomes a franchise, I hope we see more of Goat-man.
So really, it's the same sort of forgettable DTV fare I've watched a hundred times. It's got problems, but it's also fun enough to warrant a look; a "background" movie that somehow found its way into theaters. Am I happy that it cost me about 35 bucks to see it (2 tickets plus concessions - 11 bucks for a medium soda and nachos!)? Absolutely not. But it's not the first time I've seen a DTV-worthy movie in theaters (Transylmania!), nor is it the worst movie I've even seen this week (that would be Search For The Beast). Wait til DVD, keep expectations in check, and you'll probably find that it's pretty OK.
What say you?