Studio: Anchor Bay Entertainment
Director: Chad Archibald
Writer: Cody Calahan, Chad Archibald
Producer: Christopher Giroux, Chad Archibald
Stars: Michelle Mylett, Caroline Korycki, Gemma Bird Matheson, Sydney Kondruss, Clare Bastable, Ry Barrett
A near-fatal drowning experience gives a young woman visions of a supernatural serial killer who begins stalking her friends.
Slipping on a beer bottle on the pier outside a party, Madison hits her head and falls into the water unconscious. When she wakes, Madison strangely finds herself in a grimy bathtub inside an even grimier basement. A Rob Zombie’s “Halloween” hulk of a man with stringy Sadako hair turns toward her, his waterlogged face bloated like Ted Danson’s from “Creepshow.”
Madison’s sudden scream at the sight snaps her back to reality, where she is rescued from the lake by her friends. Madison doesn’t know it yet, but she just unwittingly brought with her a supernatural serial killer known as “The Drownsman” from that brief trip to the other side.
Madison is so traumatized by the experience that she develops an intense fear of water. Unable to drink it, she takes essential liquids intravenously. Unable to touch it, she cowers from raindrops and leaky faucets. This is how it has to be. Because when water comes anywhere near Madison, so do terrifying visions of the Drownsman.
After one year of placating her phobia, Madison’s friends have had enough. Staging a placebo séance they think will exorcise an imaginary demon, the women end up summoning the Drownsman for real. Now no one is safe from his evil hands grabbing at them from sinks, puddles, or washing machines. If Madison cannot solve the mystery of how to stop this murderous madman, every one of them could end up another victim of the Drownsman.
If it came from the slasher heyday of the 1980s, “The Drownsman” would be a VHS cult classic by now. Had it arrived in the 1990s when “I Know What You Did Last Summer”-style shockers were en vogue, a major studio would have opened it on 1,000 screens across the United States.
Instead, “The Drownsman” hails from 2014. That puts it face to face with a catch-22 conundrum that it cannot help but be a movie moderately behind its time. Because it wouldn’t, or couldn’t, exist at all had the eras above not provided so many horror movie templates to cheekily crib from.
“The Drownsman” is essentially “A Nightmare on Elm Street” featuring a dreamstalker less prone to one-liners. The movie wears all of its influences on its sleeve, particularly this one, practically winking knowingly into the lens by naming a building the “C.G. Craven Psychiatric Facility.”
Detractors, and reviews indicate the film has plenty, may scoff at a 7/10 rating for something built with so many derivative blocks. Yet dismissing the movie for redundancies ignores the fact that “The Drownsman” nevertheless works well as a capable chiller aiming only to keep the wheel rolling with style and speed, not reinvent it.
An argument can certainly be made about it being “just another” supernatural serial killer clone. But “The Drownsman” has a visual polish rivaling big-screen mainstream features and there is enough uniqueness in the water phobia theme to make the movie memorable.
The story is not entirely without originality either, even if its core idea is common in the genre. Shrug your shoulders and move on from questions like how Madison stays clean when bathing is out of the question and it is fascinating to see someone with such an unusually debilitating phobia. Plentiful hold your breath moments, underwater angles, and the notion of danger threatening from every drip, drop, drain, or basin in sight should work wonders to keep anyone with similar drowning fears up at night.
Michelle Mylett as Madison makes for an appealing Final Girl. Her co-stars fill their functions as secondary characters, although some of their acting is uneven. Actresses occasionally appear as though they are simply reading lines instead of truly inhabiting a personality. Maybe the script has more words than it needs. Maybe the cast doesn’t know what to do with all of them. Maybe filmmaker Chad Archibald felt directorial attention was better spent emphasizing flair over believability.
Whatever the case may be, the bottom line is “The Drownsman” is entertaining, provided you’re in the mood for a not-too-deep film executed with surprising slickness. It helps to turn a blind eye at more than one head-scratching plot point, like what happened to Hannah’s honeymoon or how did Madison know to steal the custodian’s keys?
Sometimes taste buds crave a simple ketchup and mustard hamburger instead of prime rib. “The Drownsman” may not have the gourmet flavor many may crave, though it can satisfy the hunger of those interested in a traditional, contemporary horror film with a thick dash of throwback charm.
Review Score: 70