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Black Waters of Echo's Pond, The
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Not-So-Magic Pan"
1 stars

“The Black Waters of Echo’s Pond” is a cheaply made horror film that quietly slipped into theaters for a few days with little hype, no press screenings and an ad campaign so underwhelming that the one time I saw a television commercial for it, it looked more like a beer promo taking the form of an advertisement for a cheesy genre. Needless to say, I had to go see it because I have always had a bizarre fascination for trashy exploitation items and the opportunity to see one that I knew virtually nothing about going into it was simply too irresistible of a notion to pass up. Sure, the chances were excellent that it was going to be a giant load of crap but there was always that slight glimmer of hope that it might turn out to that needle in the cinematic haystack that film fans are always hoping to discover along the lines of such other films with humble origins like “Carnival of Souls” or “Night of the Living Dead.” Well, having finally seen the film, I can assure you without hesitation that it certainly does fit into one of those aforementioned categories and I suspect that it won’t take you too long to figure out which one it might be.

The film opens with a prologue set in 1927 at a Turkish archeological dig that has just uncovered a map supposedly leading to the lair of the demon Pan and a set of artifacts that could be used to inflict the “tortures of the damned” on those unwise enough to monkey around with them. As was the custom back then, the people behind the expedition bring their discoveries to a remote island off the coast of Main and transform them into a board game that combines the worst aspects of Jumanji and Truth Or Dare, a move then ends with them brutally killing each other. The film then jumps ahead as a group of nine college pals (presumably barber or clown) arrive at the island, now owned by the drunken, surly and shotgun-wielding Pete (Robert Patrick), for a weekend of presumed revelry and debauchery. While stumbling around in the dark during a power outage, they come across the hidden game and, with nothing better to do, they decide to play it. Needless to say, it all goes wrong as the game forces them to own up to their innermost secrets, desires and resentments--that would be bad enough under most circumstances but the game also seems to place them under the power of Pan and drives them to kill each other off over the course of one long night. This might seem tragic and horrifying but if there is any consolation to be had, it is in the fact that the group is such a hateful collection of morons ranging from the unlikable to the downright loathsome that the bloodshed probably would have occurred even if they had only been playing Hungry Hungry Hippos.

“The Black Waters of Echo’s Pond” is, as any horror geek worth his or her salt could tell, the latest in a long line of films in which unsuspecting dopes go off to an isolated location for a weekend of fun and frolic and wind up facing supernatural forces hell-bent on splattering them against the walls like grape jelly--a cinematic tradition broad enough to cover films ranging from “Equinox” to “The Evil Dead” to “Antichrist.” Horror filmmaking doesn’t get more elemental than this and yet, director/co-writer Gabriel Bologna botches the job so thoroughly that it not only doesn’t seem as if he has ever seen this kind of film before, it suggests that he might not even have the number of still-firing synapses required to put such a film in the DVD player. The screenplay is a mess that spends the first half of its running time on endless expository of the characters being bitchy to each other before finally letting the horror elements kick in and the second half in which they run around the island killing each other off in a mess of thoroughly unconvincing gore effects. The direction is so crummy that it almost has to be seen to be believed--Bologna has no idea of how to stage a scene for tension and even the most basic element of film grammar are brutally violated here by his ham-handed efforts. Even by the standards of cheapo genre films, the special effects are so sub-par that they look as if they were created using the most cutting-edge version of BASIC on the market. As for the actors, who include Danielle Harris, James Duval (who has not aged very well), Mircea Monroe and Electra and Elise Avellan, they all turn in shamefully hammy performances that provide nothing but bad laughs throughout. (That is, when you can understand what they are saying--some of the actors are so mush-mouthed that there are times when subtitles are almost required.) The only one who comes out with anything remotely resembling his dignity is Robert Patrick as the drunken caretaker who occasionally wanders in as if from a different movie, waves his shotgun around while muttering to himself and then wanders off just as suddenly, presumably into yet another movie. As it turns out, Patrick was also one of the film’s executive producers and in my mind, I like to think that he would do pretty much the same thing during the production meetings.

Make no mistake, “The Black Waters of Echo’s Pond” is a terrible, terrible movie that doesn’t even live up to the less-than-august standards of direct-to-video dreck. And yet, while I wouldn’t recommend it to any sane or sober person under any circumstances, I have to admit that as a long-term bad film fanatic, I did find myself developing a certain sort of affection for it. There have been a lot of movies in recent months that have been vying for the title of worst film ever made--the most notable being the overrated cult hit “The Room” and the upcoming “Birdemic”--but for the most part, the awfulness that they display is the kind of ironic and self-conscious variety that tend to get old very fast. By comparison, “The Black Waters of Echo’s Pond” doesn’t know the meaning of the word irony--among many others, it seems--and its straightforward stupidity is kind of refreshing. I’ll put it this way--I can’t imagine any circumstance in which I would ever want to subject myself to its stupidities in this or any other lifetime but as low-budget genre craptaculars go, I would take it over the likes of “Paranormal Activity” in an instant.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=20405&reviewer=389
originally posted: 04/15/10 14:48:02
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  09-Apr-2010 (R)
  DVD: 10-Sep-2013


  DVD: 10-Sep-2013

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