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New Release Review (DVD/VOD) - DEATH POOL

death pool review
A serial killer chooses drowning his victims as his particular modus operandi.







Review by Sue Finn

Directed by: Jared Cohn

Starring: Randy Wayne, Demetrius Stear, Sara Malakul Lane, Shawn C Phillips

death pool poster

As a child, Johnny is kissed fondly goodbye by his overly-doting parents, who leave him in the clearly incapable hands of their nubile teen babysitter while they head out for the evening, saying they will be back around 10.30pm.

Once alone in her hands she sets about tormenting him by forcing him into... gasp... the swimming pool! This leads to some vaguely glimpsed trauma before we are sped forward into the present where Johnny, now tormented by whatever happened in that pool, has a laundry list of addictions and a near crippling fear of water.

After being talked into joining his friend Brandon’s uncle’s pool cleaning business (don’t ask) he sets about on a simultaneous new career as a serial killer, drowning people indiscriminately while roaring maniacally.

death pool

The rest of the movie is essentially Johnny drowning women (and the occasional man) in between attending drug-fuelled porn-star-attended parties with Brandon. The story is further expanded by Brandon (Demetrius Stear) becoming a part of this serial killer's crimes and the rest of Los Angeles deciding he’s some sort of folk hero called The Valley Drowner.

First the positives - the bright sun-bleached look of this film works well and is appropriate to the setting, and the synth score, though tiresomely overused, lends a nice retro ‘80s feel to proceedings, which at least made the tackiness and plot stupidity almost sub-genre appropriate.

Those are the only positives in this truly irredeemable movie.

From the first scene there are problems. Why are the parents leaving for dinner when it is clearly still the afternoon? What happened in the pool with the babysitter? What does the mother know about this that she later apologises to Johnny for ‘what happened’?

Johnny’s ‘issues’ are so telegraphed it's beyond ridiculous; there he is, just awake from a bad dream, swigging the last of a bottle of Jack while smoking a joint with a cigarette tucked behind his ear. Though much is made of his penniless status he is seen throughout the movie partaking in drink and drugs because you know, he’s ‘troubled’; and not only could he not afford this but he never actually appears affected by it even once. He’s perfectly coherent and seemingly sober during the entirety of the film.

death pool

He murders people loudly and in public settings and yet no one ever sees or hears anything. He drowns people at parties, at swim schools (where apparently no one works or attends – tell me where that public pool is – I’ll go right now!) and on the street, but despite LA being almost constantly under camera surveillance, there’s never a hint of his identity being revealed until suddenly it is all over the news, where evidently you can reveal someone’s name before they’ve even been formally charged or questioned. Not to mention the fact that at the time he is revealed as the killer the police are searching for, there is a swarm of people behind the reporter wearing ‘Valley Drowner’ t-shirts – wow that escalated quickly!

This is yet another problematic turn of events; I can accept Johnny’s friend being strangely fascinated by the murders, but complete strangers being sycophantic fans fawning all over a serial killer? No, that is beyond ridiculous. He isn’t some Robin Hood character with an agenda to help the little guy or on a political crusade, he is a serial killer murdering young woman; a massive t-shirt wearing fan base is never gonna materialise to invite this guy to pool parties. Just stupid.

He randomly kills a child’s parents for no real reason and then tells her she’ll be “Ok”; its as if the film-makers have fully embraced his ‘urban hero’ side story and want him to appear almost magnanimous, but he doesn’t get to be both the killer and the comforter, it doesn’t work that way.

death pool

The acting by Randy Wayne as Johnny is adequate; it’s hard to tell if the lack of complexity in the character came from the script or Wayne, but I’m leaning towards the script. As written and directed by Jared Cohn this is a legitimate mess of a movie that fails itself as both a horror and as a coherent piece of story-telling on almost every level. There isn’t a single section that doesn’t have major faults.

There is a scene where Johnny’s mother (played by Gena Kay) visits her son while he’s in hiding, and her fear and love for him is genuinely affecting. It’s a shame, and telling that this glimmer of authenticity stands out so much, as it was the only genuine scene in the entire movie.

Diabolically bad.

Death Pool is on DVD and VOD June 20th.



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