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While no violence toward an innocent is pleasant, there is something inherently disturbing about child abuse, a baser acceptance that even among the worst of us, shouldn’t be crossed. Films have long made it source for stories about its effects with varying degrees of success, the topic inherently uncomfortable. With Death Pool, a new thriller releasing on DVD and VOD on June 20th, those effects leads to a string of twisted murders in a young man tormented by his past, and while there is little that would truly make the psychological connection feel remotely authentic, the premise is undeniably horrifying, even while the film does little to give much meaning to it.
As a child, Johnny Taylor (Walker Mintz) fears his sexy blonde babysitter, and rightfully so. She’s a bit of whacko who gets off attempting to drown the boy. The aftermath of that horror lies dormant until he grows but eventually awakens a monster within him, and now as a young man (played older by Randy Wayne) he can’t help himself whenever he sees an attractive woman and a body of water, simply unable to resist combining the two with lethal results. He literally gets off watching the life drain from his victims. As the bodies pile up, he grows out of control and nothing seems able to stop him.
Written and directed by prolific filmmaker Jared Cohn, Death Pool has an admittedly intriguing premise that asks some serious questions though is less concerned with the why and more with the how as it stacks one pool and water scene after another with an almost comical number of bodies. The guy in insatiable. Its starts almost possibly feasible but quickly escalates into the absurd as victims barely give up fight, the tally more important than the theme. It then gets even more bizarre after he confesses his crimes to friend Brandon (Demetrius Stear), whose reaction is well, curious to be sure. Talk about best friends forever, he actually takes to his side and even encourages Johnny to rage on. Off the rails.
Featuring a small cast, with many who are also independent filmmakers themselves, including James Cullen Bressack (Bethany), perhaps the most recognizable name is the always impressive Sara Malakul Lane (Sun Choke), who has a small part as Johnny’s ex-girlfriend. She is a smart and engaging presence in all her movies and she deserves to be in better films, and does well here though it was disappointing to see where her character went, the story setting her up to be much, much more. It’s not that Death Pool is a truly bad movie, it’s just that is isn’t what it should be, with a shallow plot that seems little more than exploitative and misogynistic rather than exploratory of the nature behind the predator. It builds like it wants to be something more but it can’t deliver beyond the violence, glorifying Johnny through Brandon’s eyes.
Cohn has some good ideas and while a few scenes feel rushed, he directs the action well and manages to squeeze some solid tension into the story, one that has great potential but nonetheless only skims the surface. There are some raw moments, both physically and sexually, something that grows in connection, and there is an obvious ploy to make some social commentary, though none go as far as they could and while this is a film you want to like, it is a disappointing mix.
Movie description: Death Pool is a 2016 drama/horror film about a troubled young man who makes a habit out of drowning attractive women, born from an abusive childhood.
Director(s): Jared Cohn
Actor(s): Sara Malakul Lane, Randy Wayne, Shawn C. Phillips