The Black Waters of Echo's Pond is a strikingly inept film. That said, I'm not entirely convinced that filmmaker Gabriel Bologna set out to make a great horror movie. Clearly all filmmakers want to make the best film they can, but it's fair to say that some filmmakers know that all they're making is an irreverent, largely-pointless way to occupy 90 minutes of your time. Films of this reach enter production with a rudimentary check list of what they imagine the target audience wants to see and they then make sure that by the time the credits roll all the boxes have been ticked off. That's it; they bring nothing more and that's okay in their book because they also hope you're expecting nothing more.

If all you're in the mood for is a horror movie that's going to offer up, at some point, a few memorable gore gags and some sexuality, then The Black Waters of Echo's Pond delivers. If you require a comprehensible plot with characters that don't make you want to set your head on fire to drown out the sound of them talking, on the other, more rational hand, then do not stop here. Those crucial items do not exist on Bologna's checklist.

Echo's Pond
opens with an interesting enough, although familiar, conceit. A Turkish archaeological dig in the 1920s has unearthed a game of sorts dedicated to Pan, the God of Pandemonium. The artifact makes its way back to America but when the dig's sponsor arrives at his private island to collect the find he is met with the bloody aftermath of the game. Cut to a present day group of co-eds who have arrived at said private island to do what all co-eds in horror movies do; drink and have sex. When one of the group finds the ancient game, the new party objective is to drink and have sex while playing a board game.
Before you have visions of an R-rated Jumanji, though, you should know that the game is nothing more than a glorified version of Truth or Dare. All it ever seems to require from the players is to think of a fantasy and then act out that fantasy. It won't be long before you start to wonder whether Gabriel Bologna, Michael Berenson and Sean Clark's script started off as the framework for a porn before deciding it could also be a horror movie. That's not a sign that Echo's Pond is overflowing with sex, either. It's surprisingly light on showing skin, but all the characters ever talk about is hooking up with one another. Even one of its attempts to develop a past conflict between two characters degrades to whether or not they slept together.

Around the 50-minute mark, though, the script does indeed decide to become a horror movie and the game begins infecting the mind's of its players, teasing them with falsities that are supposed to drive them to homicide. Unfortunately there isn't a single likable soul in the bunch, so there is zero investment in any of their fates. The lack in tension is compensated by the occasional gory payoff, though, which is almost enough to make up for how agonizing the first hour of the film is.

A few welcome faces make the insufferable cast of characters a little more tolerable as well. Robert Patrick pops up from time to time, though he's given little to do beyond supply comic relief that is neither comic nor relieving. Horror regulars should enjoy both Mircea Monroe and Danielle Harris, but in doing so they will also have to endure Electra and Alise Avellan (Grindhouse's Babysitter Twins) who take up an excruciating amount of screen time.

That's kind of the running theme of The Black Waters of Echo's Pond, actually. It's all about enduring dreadful staples of low-budget, amateur filmmaking for a few fleeting moments of genuine enjoyment. If watching horror movies that never strain themselves with ambition is something you enjoy doing -- and I'm going to assume this is neither a solo nor sober hobby of yours - then Echo's Pond is satisfactory. If you expect a modicum of thought be devoted to characters and story, steer clear of this mess.
categories Reviews, Horror