The Movie Waffler New Release Review [Digital/VOD] - AQUASLASH | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review [Digital/VOD] - AQUASLASH

aquaslash review
A water park's main attraction is turned into a deadly weapon.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Renaud Gauthier

Starring: Nicolas Fontaine, Brittany Drisdelle, Nick Walker, Madeline Harvey, Paul Zinno

aquaslash poster

Horror fans instantly warmed to Canadian writer/director Renaud Gauthier upon the release of his feature debut, Discopath, back in 2013. A love letter to the distinctive Canadian slashers of the late '70s and early '80s, Discopath might easily have fallen into the 'wink wink' style of cynical genre pastiches like Sharknado, but Gauthier displayed a genuine affection for and understanding of the type of movies he was paying homage to. He captured both the clunkiness and sleaziness of slashers of the era, and Discopath resembled a movie financed by a mob boss looking to make a quick buck.

aquaslash review

Gauthier's sophomore film, Aquaslash, is set in the present day, but with its synth score and dayglo aesthetic, its vibe is very much of a retro '80s leaning. Its premise skews closer to the slashers of the mid to late '80s than those of the first wave. You know, those movies where the killer operates around a specific setting - think the summer camp of Sleepaway Camp, the gym of Aerobicide, the strip club of Stripped to Kill or the spa of, well, Death Spa.

[ READ MORE: New Release Review - The Vigil ]

Here the setting is Wet Valley Water Park, where 35 years ago a young guest was killed in what was either a tragic freak accident or a homicide (an aquacide?). That's all been long forgotten though, and now the park plays host to the graduating students of Valley Hill High, who have gathered for a weekend of watersports, of both the recreational and naughty kind. Little do they know however that a homicidal maniac murdered two horny teens the night before they arrived, and the killer has a nasty surprise in store for the revellers. They've only gone and rigged up the park's main attraction, a towering water slide, with a pair of razor sharp blades set to quarter any unsuspecting fun-lovers who emerge at its base.

aquaslash review

Along with its slasher trappings, Aquaslash draws heavily from the disaster movies of the '70s. A particular influence would appear to be 1977's Rollercoaster, which derives its thrills from the suspense of a giant Switchback ride that has been rigged with explosives. As is de rigueur for disaster movies, the running time is padded out with a bunch of human interest subplots. Here we get married fortysomething park attendants cheating on their spouses with the park's teenage guests; a pair of young lovers who rekindle their lust while drawing the ire of the girl's violent jock boyfriend; and a millionaire who plans to buy the park as a way of endearing himself to his estranged teenage son.

[ READ MORE: New Release Review - The Assent ]

What makes Aquaslash work is how, as with Discopath, Gauthier tells his very silly story with a completely straight face, never once winking at the audience. There's no postmodern, meta-commentary at play here, which may prove a stumbling block for a generation raised on the snark of MST3K. Aquaslash never feels remotely contemptuous of the sort of cheap thrills it's trading in, nor does it feel like a simple case of a filmmaker paying tribute to a past era without adding anything worthwhile of their own.

aquaslash review

Unlike the overpraised The Vast of Night, which purported to be an episode of a Twilight Zone-esque 1950s TV show while looking very much like a glossy product of the 21st century, Aquaslash plays exactly how you expect it might have had it been made in 1986. This means it never quite delivers on the outré promise of its attention-grabbing conceit, and like the b-movies of the '50s, the promised over-the-top thrills only arrive in its closing moments. In this way it might bore the pants off more casual viewers with only a passing knowledge of the sort of shoddy movies it's riffing on. But if your familiarity with '80s slashers extends beyond a mild appreciation of their VHS box-art, Aquaslash is a fun throwback to the sort of movies you reluctantly rented when your local video store's one copy of Back to the Future was out on loan, but which burned some of their images into your brain forever.

Aquaslash is on UK Digital/VOD now.

2020 movie reviews