I’ve been hearing some pretty bad reviews about The Black Waters of Echo’s Pond which means I had to see it for myself to see just how bad this movie could possibly be. That seems counter intuitive to me, to see a bad movie that is reviewed by people I trust (the people I go to when I want to read a review). I have come here to say that they are half right. It isn’t a great movie, but it does have some merit, and that means you can most likely give it a shot without having your eyes burned straight out of your head, but I will have to disclaim that heavily later.
Synopsis from Anchor Bay:
In 1927, archaeologists unearthed a major historical find in Turkey. What happened next is the stuff of legend and nightmares! Directed by Gabriel Bologna, The Black Waters of Echo’s Pond stars scream queen Danielle Harris (Halloween 4 & 5, The Victim, Hatchet II and III), genre favorite Robert Patrick (Terminator 2, Walk the Line, Jayne Mansfield’s Car) and James Duval (Donnie Darko, Independence Day, Gone in Sixty Seconds). Nine friends take a holiday at a Victorian home on a private island off the coast of Maine. There, they uncover a game first discovered as part of an archaeological expedition from over 80 years ago that resulted in a series of mysterious – and grisly – deaths. What they don’t realize is that when played, the ancient artifact brings out the worst in each of them. Jealousy, greed, hatred, lust, all of the things they keep buried deep inside themselves rise to the surface and come to a boil.
First off, this is a movie filled with 90’s talent. Hey there, James Duvall from the Doom Generation and other Greg Araki movies. Why hello there, Miss Danielle Harris, modern day scream queen and star of some of the B classics of the modern age. Robert Patrick has shaken the silver liquid metal Terminator off his back (years ago) and now stars in a great deal of modern under-the-radar horror and science fiction. How about Electra Avellan and Elise Avellan? Remember them from Grindhouse? Me too. So essentially you have an all-star cast (B to C listers but all -tar none the less). Director Gabriel Bologna is unfamiliar to me. He’s just completed work on a movie called African Gothic… what could that possibly be? Even the music is by Harry Manfredini of Friday the 13th (among others) fame. One of the reasons I was so anxious to see The Black Waters of Echo’s Pond is due to the involvement of writer Sean Clark of Horror’s Hollowed Grounds. He’s a smart guy with imagination and wit. He’s probably why the little that enticed me worked so well.
The movie itself actually had a great premise. Let’s play an ancient board game that will unlock some pure evil shit among a group of friends struggling through some classic psycho-drama. That works for me. That sounds like one great big popcorn movie with loads of explicit gore, a hearty amount of nookie and boobs… and of course a fantastic board game that, with a little bit of marketing, could become a saleable product. Unfortunately all that genius is wasted. Black Waters sets itself up to near success but falls apart as our protagonists begin to play the game. This moment in the movie should be brief and we should get a healthy dose of character development almost too quickly. Instead we get a protracted, drawn out soap opera when we should be enjoying the subtle nuisances of a strange, discovered game. The word here… editing. Edit the fuck out of that scene, and you’ll keep the audiences attention because everything leading up to this scene works. Everything after… well… I have some notes on that too.
The effects work isn’t terrible. It’s appropriately gory at times, but the primary effect… the blacked out eye gag that has our protagonists looking like a bunch of Collegeville masks or rejects from The Devil’s Rain isn’t done well at all. I invoke the name Devil’s Rain and say to the effect team, go back and take notes on that particular movie. You’d have done a much better job (and they did a better job over 30 years earlier). The pacing of the final third of the movie is ramshackle, bouncing from moment to moment as if this were a Friday the 13th sequel with strange ancient evil rather than a demonic vision of Hell. You can either do kill by numbers or heavy atmosphere with a good looking demons. When you try to combine them you get a shitty looking demon that might as well have been an extra in Sorority Babes at the Slime Ball Bowl-a-rama and a train of confusion all the way to the end including a stereotypical end shot that had me ready to whip out my dick and piss on my lap top (the effects of watching a movie on cold medicine should not be understated).
To sum this up. I enjoy the concept, but beyond the first act, the whole thing fails to congeal and there’s too much time spent developing characters rather than killing them or chasing them or possessing them. Re-edit this beast, and you may actually get a better result. And as I stated before, I do not hate this movie as some folks do. I can say that fans of cheesy 90’s slasher pictures will appreciate some of the novelty elements. It would be a good Sunday afternoon on cable movie.
The Black Waters of Echo’s Pond is available NOW!