Studio: MTI Home Video
Director: Jared Cohn
Writer: Jared Cohn
Producer: Gabriel Campisi, Jared Cohn, Demetrius Stear, David Sterling, Randy Wayne
Stars: Randy Wayne, Demetrius Stear, Sara Malakul Lane, Tom McLaren, Gena Kay, Jordan Preston, Xan Rogers, Ashley Young, Amor Hilton, Jeff Leroy
A man with a traumatic fear of water becomes a notorious serial killer driven to drown attractive women throughout Los Angeles.
An occasional slap caught on nanny cam notwithstanding, the worst things most babysitters do involve sending a brat to bed early, or providing parents with an unflattering report at the end of an evening. Young Johnny Taylor’s sitter on the other hand, has a frightening fetish for forcing the boy into the family pool, where she holds his head underwater for sick kicks.
It’s no mystery why Johnny grew into an adult with an intense fear of water. It is more of a mystery why Johnny is now unable to see a “hot chick” (his words) and water, without wanting to dunk the former into the latter until she drowns.
Taking a job as a pool cleaner with his stoner buddy Brandon is undoubtedly a bad idea. (Coincidentally, so is watching this movie.) But being unwilling to go back to acting in “gay for pay” porn, this is the best chance Johnny has to solve his strapped-for-cash problems.
Brandon’s hookup for pools, parties, and pornstars is the perfect recipe for unknowingly setting up Johnny to become the soaked serial killer dubbed “The Valley Drowner.” Oddly, the more women Johnny murders means more media attention. Brandon is pleased as punch about his best bud’s newfound celebrity status, never mind how he got it. With adoring fans and a supportive pal, Johnny’s drive to commit more drownings is now more dangerous than ever.
It’s mildly shocking to see that summary occupying four paragraphs. Because “Death Pool” involves a premise so thin, most of the movie has next to nothing to do.
Each sequence for the film’s first two-thirds is an extended setup for Johnny to commit a murder in a suspense-less scene. When Johnny isn’t drowning someone, he is seen randomly doing a few pushups, strolling down a sidewalk, or painstakingly removing every article of clothing prior to balking for a good long while at the water’s edge. Assorted swimming and party shots also stretch themselves with slow motion to make sure the feature-length mark is hit.
The film’s obsession with being populated by pornstar personalities leads to nudity and sexual situations that are trashy instead of titillating. Character behavior ranges from being simply unbelievable to laugh out loud ludicrous.
If the movie had any ambition, it might have made something out of its superficial subtext involving the cult of celebrity status surrounding serial killers. As is, the script doesn’t care enough about its slim story to make much sense of itself.
Dumb details can be small, such as a serendipitous bystander buying a newspaper from a vending box (they still have those?) and reading it right there on the street. Or they can be bigger about their stupidity, like a detective satisfied with questioning Johnny for a quick minute, despite his clear connection to a crime scene in at least two of the deaths.
Not that it could, but cinematography makes no attempt to hide quick and dirty carelessness. Night exteriors are grainy from being underexposed. Shooting style is inconsistent to the point where one and only one conversation cuts between two people speaking directly into the lens. As if the visuals weren’t weird enough on their own, everything is then washed in a distractingly unnatural tint where green L.A. freeway signs become as blue as the pool water.
Editing is similarly nonchalant about keeping sloppiness quiet. An errant reaction shot is mistimed with dialogue, leaving one man’s mouth moving while no words are heard. A quick cut intended to be a flashback actually uses footage from a murder yet to come. Then there are constant sirens and insert shots of police cars racing or an LAPD chopper in the air, yet just one plainclothes cop is ever seen actually pursuing Johnny on foot. It stands to reason that the ridiculously abrupt ending was also pulled from jettisoned B-roll that didn’t fit elsewhere.
Even by microbudget DTV standards, “Death Pool” is shabbily produced. It’s a throwaway thriller probably shot in a week, and written in roughly half that time. Whatever the audience was meant to get out of it, what they actually receive is a dippy movie that doesn’t try nearly hard enough to have any authentic impact.
Review Score: 25