The Black Waters of Echo’s Pond (2009)
★★ / ★★★★
A group of friends visit in an island in Maine for a weekend getaway in a mansion, cared for by a man named Pete (Robert Patrick), blissfully unaware that many people have died there ever since archeologists discovered some mysterious cave paintings almost a hundred years ago. One of them finds a board game. They decide to play. As the players get deeper in the game, it appears as though a mysterious force is gaining control of them, feeding on their hidden animosities and desires.
Written by Michael Berenson, Gabriel Bologna, and Sean Clark, “The Black Waters of Echo’s Pond” is an odd horror film because it is weak when it comes to delivering the fear and the jolts but quite strong with comedic punchlines. I enjoyed it for the most part not because it is a good horror movie per se but because it was able to make me laugh.
Once the characters have been introduced, the middle section shows promise. Instead of delivering the expected guts and gore, the material, surprisingly, takes its time to show the game being played. We are able to see details of the board game—the pieces, the cards, the hidden machinations when certain spots are activated—and the players having a good time even though they are thrusted into very awkward situations at times. (The cards contain somewhat risqué dares.) It looks like something I would want to play myself.
And then there is further delay in the violence. We learn a little bit about the characters: their stories, their personalities, the dynamics of the group. Though the story takes place in an island, there are enough details provided for us to get a good picture of what their lives might be like in the mainland. We learn nothing profound about the characters on screen but each is given time to shine. It does not feel like it is a movie with nothing on its mind other than showing people being sliced and diced.
When blood is finally shed, however, I found it to be painfully standard. Sure, there are two or three characters I rooted for to make it to the end, but the kills are not at all creative. Worse, the camera has the tendency to go for the close-up when someone has been struck by a weapon, magnifying the limitation of the budget. I was not convinced it was supposed to be campy because the violence is consistently delivered with a poker face.
Directed by Gabriel Bologna, “The Black Waters of Echo’s Pond” is further hindered by an ending that is a complete copout. I felt as though some of the joy I got from it was deliberately taken away. The final thirty minutes could have benefited from a complete rewrite.