When a film is released without a press screening, it never bodes well. Thus, one cannot approach THE BLACK WATERS OF ECHO’S POND with anything but resignation. Yet even for a flick in which the distributor has no faith, the product is abysmal. As a generic slasher film, it is surprisingly coy about its gore quotient. As a horror film, it is woefully inept in creating tension, shock, or fear. There is, quite literally, nothing to recommend it.
The victims-to-be are the standard issue set of attractive 20-somethings all set to spend a relaxing vacation in the equally standard-issue remote setting, on an island in a house in the deep in the dark woods, hours from civilization, and beyond the reach of cell-phone reception. Naturally the lights go out and while searching for the fuse box they discover a dusty old, but surprisingly elaborate board game that, with all its mythological flourishes and rules spelled out on a mini-scroll, naturally invokes the devil. The game itself is a sort of satanic truth-or-dare, and our nine comely players all have dark secrets, and even darker desires, that they can’t wait to share. It’s just a matter of time before the knives come out in a more than metaphorical manner.
Of the many problems here, the fact that none, and that would be absolutely none, of these people are interesting, much less likable, is the most glaring. With no possibility of an emotional investment in any of them, the ongoing slaughter is just so much screen time that passes so dully as to qualify as audience torture worse than anything these characters suffer, and their suffering involves a chainsaw at one point. The audience also suffers through the single worst example of plot exposition to be found in a film so far this year as the island’s cranky caretaker (Robert Patrick) wanders the island at night talking to himself about why he is collecting bear traps in the dark.
A horror film at its best electrifies its audience because while it is creeping the bejeezus out of that audience, it is also gifting it with a subtext that trenchantly addresses issues social, primal, or a combination thereof. THE DARK WATERS OF ECHO’S POND gifts the audience with a set of twins, a blond with fake boobs, and what happens when the brunettes of the piece finally express their issues with blonde boobiness. That last approaches trenchant, but just as expectations rise, they are sunk as it, like everything else, loses its momentum before it has a chance to get going thanks to sloppy writing, indifferent direction, and performances that, for the most part, seem to be done phonetically by people who have never been in front of a camera before in their lives. By the end, everyone on screen is covered in blood and metaphorical shame for having been a part of this, and the audience is covered in the self-loathing of having wasted part of its limited and precious time on this planet watching such dreck.