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Saturday, September 7, 2013


The sub-sub-sub-genre of a group of teens trapped on an island while getting gorily murdered one by one is given yet another recycling in the dumb but lively THE BLACK WATERS OF ECHO'S POND (2009). 

A colorful but rather unnecessary prologue that seems to have sucked up more than its share of the budget tells of a 1927 archeological group in Turkey discovering the underground tomb of Pan, and with it instructions for assembling a strange board game whose players, we'll find, become possessed by evil spirits and made to believe that their worst suspicions about each other are true.  Which, as you might guess, leads to bloody warfare within whatever group happens to be playing the game. 

Right on cue, we meet a gaggle of generic modern-day teens arriving at an island in New England and staying in a house that just happens to be the current hiding place of The Game.  In a scene right out of THE EVIL DEAD, one of this new crop of doofuses ends up in the basement,  finds the item in question, and urges everyone to participate.  (This elaborate prop, by the way, is a pretty impressive-looking creation.)  The "truth or dare" nature of the game starts out as fun but quickly turns sour as the questions get more probing and personal. 

While these characters are the usual insufferable stereotypes spouting mindless "party hearty" dialogue that should actually embarrass the screenwriters, they do get a bit deeper and more three-dimensional (but not much) as the game eventually causes all their simmering jealousies and resentments--not to mention good old naked lust--to be stoked by the fires of Hell into violent action.  Thus, the lightweight sexual titillation and goofy teasing of the film's first half turn deadly with everyone running around taking turns trying to kill each other as Harry Manfredini of  "Friday the 13th" fame cranks up the scary music. 

At this point, what has been a rather bland affair suddenly takes a jarring turn into some wicked violence and makeup effects that are unexpectely gruesome.  The gore is all refreshingly non-CGI (digital effects are reserved for facial transformations, with the possessed teens sporting black, bleeding eyes) although the most extreme stuff is shown after-the-fact rather than during.  Still, there's a chainsaw bisection, plenty of knife and meat cleaver action, a shotgun to the head, and a few things I'll decline to mention lest I spoil what fun there is to be gleaned from this otherwise unremarkable slasher flick.

While a bit shoddy-looking in spots, the film mostly maintains a technical level equal to that of a high-end TV series episode.  (Night exteriors are particularly well-done.)  James Duval (Randy Quaid's older stepson in INDEPENDENCE DAY), T-2's Robert Patrick,  and the ever-popular Danielle Harris (CYRUS, THE VICTIMCHROMESKULL: LAID TO REST 2) lead a cast that is in no danger of sweeping the Oscars any time soon, although their acting seems to improve once the screaming starts.   Of particular interest to fans of Robert Rodriguez' PLANET TERROR are the irrepressible Crazy Babysitter Twins (Electra and Elise Avellan) as good-girl/ bad-girl sisters who both end up as very bad girls. 

The DVD from Anchor Bay is in 1.78:1 anamorphic  widescreen with Dolby Digital 5.1 sound and subtitles in English and Spanish.  The sole extra is an alternate opening that actually beats the one used in the movie by a long shot. 

I can't recommend THE BLACK WATERS OF ECHO'S POND with unrestrained enthusiasm,  although once the killfest finally got under way I did derive a certain amount of enjoyment from it.   It's an extremely dumb, predictable, and by-the-numbers flick, to be sure, but let's face it--you sit back to watch something like this, you pretty much know what you're in for.

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