Nov 29, 2019
It’s Friday, so Andrew’s back with another Fantastic Fest feature, the best crocodile movie you’ll see this year. Now, I know what you’re thinking: What about CRAWL (Episode #563)? See, that’s an alligator film, and you can tell from the snout, but that’s not really why you’re here, is it? For a few other films from Andrew, however, check out his recent reviews for KNIVES OUT (Episode #652), DOLEMITE IS MY NAME (Episode #649), and FRACTURED (Episode #642).
Before the review, we’ll have a promo from our good friends at the Seeking Human Victims podcast. Every episode, Dan from One Good Scare Productions covers a horror film in depth. You can catch their podcast on Twitter and Facebook @OGScare, and on Instagram @dragonsrejects.
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Here we go!
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Hello film fans!
Andrew here. Back with the blackest of unintentional comedies for your Black Friday enjoyment. This one is best enjoyed with a group, so when everyone gets home from shopping throw this one on and get ready to yell at the screen.
The premise of this movie was just too simple to pass up. I like a nice basic story as an antidote to some of the heavier films programmed by Fantastic Fest and you’re not going to do much better than a guy trapped in a pool. That said, I did not get the chance to check out a film at this year’s fest called 4X4 about a guy trapped in a, uh, 4x4. But early next year I promise I will bring to you a film I did see called THE PLATFORM, about a guy trapped... in a towering prison. You thought I was gonna say “platform”. He’s more, um, platform-adjacent.
Today’s movie is THE POOL, written and directed by Ping Lumpraploeng. THE POOL made its Texas premiere at the 2019 Fantastic Fest by way of Thailand. The film stars Theeradej Wongpuapan as Day, a twenty-something scraping by as a freelance technician in the film industry. Today, he’s assisting with the underwater production of an advertisement for some unspecified high-end product with a woman dressed as a clown floating around on a posh sofa at the bottom of a 20-foot diving pool. The set keeps it loose with Day’s girlfriend dropping by to hang out and his own massive sheep-like dog playing some role in the commercial. Day and a colleague are tasked to return to the pool the day after shooting wraps up to clean up and drain the pool. He gives his buddy the go-ahead to leave a little early before taking a break to float on a raft and catch some sunlight. Unfortunately, Day nods off for a bit only to awaken and realize that the water level has already dropped by 10 feet... and there’s no way out. Also, the film earlier went to great pains to show us a newspaper article about a crocodile escaping from the zoo, so I’m sure we’ll have to contend with that, too.
This film is basically the PG-13 version of a torture porn horror film. Think of every possible obstruction that could stop a guy from getting out of a massively deep pool with the water level dropping by the minute, increasing the distance between him and safety. The movie walks a razor’s edge, cruelling teasing both Day and the viewer with implausible means of escape that look like they might work out until evaporating. As things get more and more ridiculous the tension continues to build even beyond the point where you can no longer take things seriously... which admittedly happens fairly early on.
The aforementioned crocodile is probably the best example of this. I’m sure the budget on this film was small and I don’t know much about the overall strength of Thailand’s computer-generated graphics industry, but *oof* this creature takes some time to get used to. The muted reptilian color-palette doesn’t seem to match the surrounding environment making it look like a refugee from a PS2-era Tomb Raider game. Even crazier are the antics of the crocodile who thwarts our hero multiple times, basically winking at the crowd instead of just eating the guy whole.
THE POOL has just a handful of problems that, while not ruining the picture, will likely see it left off the Oscar ballot.
First, the setbacks that are soon to befall Day are established with such a blatant disregard for subtlety that its akin to Kevin McCallister setting up his traps in HOME ALONE. OK, this is still an easy one to overlook.
Secondly, and I’m going to throw up a trigger-warning spoiler alert here, so bail out now if you’re already sold on the film. 3... 2... 1... the dog dies. I get that many people are very sensitive to this, even people that worship mass murderer John Wick. Here the dog’s death serves a clear purpose, but if you don’t have a high tolerance for canicide, steer clear.
Lastly, the film has some bizarre anti-abortion messaging, but uh... you know... it’s a different culture than our own.
What makes THE POOL fantastic?Um, everything. I am not one of those “this movie is so bad it’s good” kind of guys. I am never going to throw on the intentionally awful SHARKNADO, and I don’t enjoy dunking on earnest cinematic disasters like BATTLEFIELD EARTH. THE POOL tries so hard to be a straight action-adventure that you have to root for both Day and the filmmakers. You’re not laughing at it, you’re mostly laughing with it.
I knew the screening I attended was going to be something special before the film even got started when the fourth production card appeared on screen and that producer was none other than Pizza Hut. This brought forth the first of many waves of raucous laughter and, thankfully, foretold of some heavy-handed Pizza Hut product placement yet to come.
THE POOL is pulse-pounding escapist escape cinema that the American film market could never produce. Fans of single-location suspense thrillers such as CRAWL or DON’T BREATHE will love this film.
Rotten Tomatoes: 100%
One Movie Punch: 8.0/10
THE POOL (2018) is not rated (but profiles as PG-13) and is now streaming on Amazon Prime.
Come back next Friday for LITTLE JOE, a stylish European production about a woman developing a new species of genetically engineered houseplant designed to release spores that bring happiness to their owners. I’m sure nothing will go wrong.
See you then!