If you try to set my island on fire again, I’ll gut you like a fish!
If you were born in the mid-late 80s then chances are that one of your favourite films during your youth was the fantasy film, Jumanji. For those who are unfamiliar with the concept of Jumanji, it was basically set around two kids in the modern day that find a board game and when they role the dice, a message appears in the central dome and whatever is in that message comes true, such as a lion randomly appearing, a stampede storming through the house and vines coming out of everywhere. It was one of the truly great enjoyable films of the 1990s.
It was one of the most unique concepts for a film that I have ever seen, and I write this before I even start watching The Black Waters of Echo’s Pond, I love that someone has tried a much darker and more horrific take on the concept. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m very much against directly stealing concepts from other films, but this seemed very different. For this reason I was looking forward to it.
However, this film was on the Horror Channel. For those that don’t live in the UK, the Horror Channel is the home of exceptionally low budget films that no-one has ever heard of. I could literally write about every film that appears on there for this site and be confident that 90% of those that read my reviews won’t have heard of them. They do occasionally show a decent horror films, such as a film called Dark Floors which I will review in the near future, but the channel is definitely more hit than miss.
A group of friends travel to a remote island for a weekend away and whilst searching for the fuse box, they find an ancient board game, written with ancient symbols and references to demons and hauntings. When the group starts playing it starts as fun and games, but soon they soon start to realise that the answers everyone are going too far, and even worse that those giving the answers don’t know that they’re going to it. Rick (Duval) soon grows tired of everyone turning against him and not appreciating how he has helped them (such as paying for an engagement ring) and leaves the game.
Those that continue to play find themselves in more and more uncomfortable situations and as the truth is revealed about numerous situations, including who wants to have sex with each other and professional jealousy between those that work together. Eventually the group splits up into their little groups, each with their own issues to solve and this isn’t helped by a demon that is slowly taking possession of them all.
So is it like Jumanji?
Yes, it is like Jumanji, if you take out all of the fun, genuine suspense, good acting, an ending that didn’t leave you pissed off and everything else that made Jumanji a success.
You know, I am so fucked off with how the filmed ended that I am going to just tell you how it ends. It literally ends with it all being a vision. Nothing that you have seen during the previous 1 hour 30odd minutes is actually real, Rick has imagined every single minute of it. That is literally how the film ends. You know, I wasn’t going to give this film a favourable view anyway but that has just angered me.
I’ve often said in this reviews that I feel like I have wasted my time, but never more so than this. 90 or so minutes of film turns out to be nothing more than a dream/vision that one of the characters is having. Now, this is not the first time I have seen this in film, with the most high profile example being the ending battle of the Twilight films and it turns out that it’s nothing more than a vision that one of the vampires is showing to one of the others.
If I did a scoring system, that right there would have knocked the film down from a 3/10 to a 0.5/10 because that’s how much of a waste of time this film was. I can forgive bad endings but that just took the absolute piss.
As I said though, before that I would probably have given it a 3 out of 10, so it wasn’t really doing that well to begin with so let’s examine why.
Let me start with the terrible acting and whilst most of them are relatively average and un-noteworthy, I have to bring up just how poor the performances of Electra and Elise Avellan, I would even go as far as being diabolical. I’ve only seen them once before and that was in Planet Terror, and they were pretty bad in that, but now they have someone managed to expand on their atrocious performances. Now, I’m used to awful acting, see my recent review of Let There Be Zombies for a fine example of that, but the difference is that the terrible acting was actually quite amusing and funny, whereas watching the Avellan sisters act is nigh on torturous. They really are that bad.
Don’t get me wrong, they aren’t alone in their awfulness, but they are definitely the worst of the worst and in terms of characters, they offer nothing. I lost count of how many times that they use the words fiancées, husband or anything of a similar nature. The other characters aren’t particularly riveting though, and one of the main issues causing this is that there are too many main characters for such a very limited concept.
Jumanji worked well for many reasons, like I mentioned earlier, but one of the key aspects to it’s success was a relatively small main cast, with only four main cast members that are well developed, and a strong supporting cast with them. The Black Waters of Echo’s Pond doesn’t have the same level of development for any of it’s characters really, expect for when they are possessed by a demon, and then they turn into what you could argue are their true selves turned up….but the problem is that they are possessed and because of that it’s not really true character development.
I suppose it’s just one of many clichés that accompanies any film that centres around demons and possessions, and that leads me neatly onto what is becoming an all too familiar feature on this site. Now, I don’t like consistently pointing out clichés, I would love to review a truly unique film at some point, but the problem with horror films is that they are often so unoriginal that it’s impossible not to notice things that you’ve seen plenty of times before. So here it goes, the clichés…..
- As soon as the characters arrive on the island, there isn’t any phone signal….because of course, that would be too easy
- One of the group of friends is a stoner
- Actor in his late 30s portraying someone who is in his early 20s. James Duval was 37 when the film was released and although the character’s is never revealed, it is obviously intended to be someone just out of his teenage years.
- All of the electricity on the island goes out shortly after they get there
- Girl gets a vision of the demon that no-one else sees and no-one believes her
- Two of the group used to date each other
- One of the group is a girl who removes/loses a piece of clothing every time she appears on the screen, eventually shown completely naked.
- Group are told of the dangers of playing the game, they ignore them
Once, just once, I’d love to see something original in horror films, but alas, I doubt we will anytime soon.
So after something that pissed me off, actresses that can’t act and an ever growing list of cliches, the only thing left to talk about is the soundtrack. There isn’t actually a lot of music in the film, but when there is it is just bizarre. There is a scene early on when Rick has a pornographic movie that he wants everyone to watch, they soon start playing a game of piggy in the middle with it and there is a bizarre, country song playing in the background. Sometimes I am left puzzled by film-makers choosing what songs to use and this film is full of such occasions.
This is almost the very definition of a what-of-time movie. When you realise at the end that not a single thing you have just seen actually happened and it was all in someone’s imagination/vision, you can’t respect the film, and that’s how I felt. As I mentioned earlier, when I realised what had just happened, I lost all respect that I had previously had for the film, which wasn’t much to begin with, and if I did a scoring system (I might introduce one soon giving how many times I say that) then it would have gone down from a 3/10 to less than 1/10.
I can not emphasise enough that you should not waste your time with this film, but that’s what it does with you.