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The Black Waters of Echo's Pond
Anchor Bay Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 9/10/2013
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 9/10/2013
As we've discussed in the past, (narrative) movies are works of fiction. The stories are made up and the things that the characters are doing aren't real. However, within the confines of the movie, we must believe what the characters are doing, or we will be pulled out of the movie. Horror films have a bad reputation for characters doing bone-headed things, such as running away from an exit or leaving a safely barricaded area -- but let's face it, if they didn't, the movie would stop. However, when a movie piles on too many actions which are hard to swallow, it can truly hurt the film. This is the case with The Black Waters of Echo's Pond.
The Black Waters of Echo's Pond opens in the 1920s, as we witness a group of archaeologists (?) unearth a tomb (?) which is dedicated to Pan. The scene then jumps to an island location, where one member of the group murders another, after refusing to divulge a secret. The story then leaps ahead to the present. Kathy (Danielle Harris), Rick (James Duval), Anton (Arcadiy Golubovich), Josh (Nick Mennell), Veronique (Mircea Monroe), Renee (Electra Avellan), Erica (Elise Avellan), Trent (Walker Howard), and Robert (M.D. Walton) have come to the island to relax and catch up. Anton's Uncle Pete (Robert Patrick) lives on the island and has set the kids up in a cabin. Anton discovers an ancient board game, and after an evening of partying, the group decides to play. However, the game asks them to examine and reveal their darkest secrets, which leads to possession and homicidal rage.
With The Black Waters of Echo's Pond, I'll bet that Director/Co-Writer Gabriel Bologna thought that he had stumbled onto something with this supernatural/ slasher hybrid which also incorporates elements from Greek mythology. (Co-Writer Sean Clark, who hosts the ever informative Horror's Hallowed Grounds should have known better.) In actuality, he's created one of the most mind-numbing horror films to come along in a while, as it's filled with things which make no sense.
As noted above, we want to be able to get behind the actions of the characters in a movie, but when they do illogical things, it can hurt the film. During the opening sequence of The Black Waters of Echo's Pond one of the explorers states that he wants to "recreate the rite of pandemonium". Well, that doesn't sound like a good idea, does it? I've done some research, and I can find any link between the Greek god Pan and the word pandemonium, save for the fact that they both contains the letters p-a-n. When the group arrives at the house on the island, Anton discovers a crate in the basement and without hesitating, opens it. And by "opens it", I mean that he has to pry boards loose -- he doesn't simply lift a lid. How often do you open crates which don't belong to you? Of course, the crate yields the Pan-based board game, but we are never told why the characters from the opening scene created a board game. Were their names Milton and Bradley and the film forgot to tell us this? Once the characters begin to play the game, things become very tense and fights break out, but they continue to play. At one point, only two people are in the room, and they continue to play! (Speaking the game, do the makers of Jumanji and Zathura know about this?)
It's at this point where The Black Waters of Echo's Pond becomes something different. Jealousy and anger somehow gives way to possession and the group turns on one another in very violent ways. A life-size monster which looks like Pan crossed with a Minotaur is scene looking out windows in certain shots (is he a stalker), but we never get a clear picture on what it is doing. From here, the movie devolves into scene after scene of the characters stalking and killing one another.
This may sound odd, but The Black Waters of Echo's Pond would have actually played better as a drama where the game leads the characters to confront one another's secrets and lies. Instead, we get a mish-mash horror film which lays on the gore in certain scenes, but is never the least bit creepy or scary. Whereas the first half is stupifying, the half is simply boring. And you know a movie is going to be a problem when the second unit photography draws attention to itself. (If you show the boat pull up to the dock and then show the characters on the dock, I can fill in the gap of how they got there.) We've gotten very accustomed to the three-month window between a film showing in theaters and premiering on home video. In this day and age, the fact that it took this movie three years to come home should tell you all that you need to know.
The Black Waters of Echo's Pond does explain its needlessly wordy title on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 30 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing no distracting grain and no defects from the source material. The image is somewhat dark at times, but the action is always visible. The colors look fine. The level of detail is adequate, but the image is somewhat flat looking. The Disc carries a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 1.5 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are OK, as they sometimes alert us to things happening off-screen. The "jump" scare sounds come through the rear speakers just fine and also produce some noticeable bass from the subwoofer.
The lone special feature on The Black Waters of Echo's Pond Blu-ray Disc is an "Alternate Opening" (3 minutes) dispenses with the transition to the island locale and shows the members of the excavation team doing awful things to one another at a house in London. There's some gore here, but it would have made the leap to the present awkward.
Review by Mike Long. Copyright 2013.