There are many things wrong with The Black Waters of Echo’s Pond, but let’s start with the title. If it’s being advertised with those very words, I expect it to take place in Echo’s Pond and for it to have black waters. I also expect it to be scary. What I don’t expect is a passing reference to a mirror surface on a board game, made to resemble a pond with black water. Nor do I expect to leave feeling bored and cheated instead of frightened. It may not technically be false advertising, but it’s just misleading enough to be annoying. The Game would have been a much more accurate title (with all due respect to David Fincher and his movie of the same name). At least then, we would have some small idea of what we were in for.
Of course, we still wouldn’t be able to make much of the film itself, which doesn’t tell a story so much as pander to the audience, manufacturing a scenario just as an excuse to include the most overused horror movie clichés. Would you be surprised that it involves a group of young people? And that it takes place in a cabin in the middle of the woods? And that these young people engage in all sorts of vices? And that violent, bloody deaths are prominently featured? And that it involves a preposterous supernatural entity? You might as well walk into the theater with a checklist. It may well be the only form of stimulation you will get, because goodness knows the movie is about as exciting as watching paint dry.
The plot, strangely enough, begins during a 1927 archeological expedition in Turkey, where a team unearths an ancient stone tablet, one inscribed with instructions for overseeing, I don’t know, a ritual of the damned. It apparently has something to do with pagan underworld creatures, which delighted at the suffering of those participating in the ritual. The team then devises a way to turn this tablet into a game housed in a stone box. At least, I think that’s what happened, although I don’t think it matters in the slightest, since the target audience will truly not care about this one way or the other. Needless to say, this stone box ends up on an island off the coast of Maine, where, for reasons I won’t reveal, it gets stashed away.
Flash forward to the present day. We find that the box is located in the basement of an old cabin owned by what I guess is the island’s sole resident, Pete (Robert Patrick). He says and does a lot of obviously creepy things, and that’s pretty much the extent of this character’s usefulness to the story. We then meet nine friends, who have all arranged to stay in Pete’s cabin: Anton (Arcadiy Golubovich), Josh (Nick Mennell), Kathy (Danielle Harris), Rick (James Duval), identical twins Renee and Erica (Electra and Elise Avellan), Trent (Walker Howard), Robert (M.D. Walton), and Veronique (Mircea Monroe). None of them are especially memorable, although I did notice Veronique, probably because a few of the others continuously speculate on the authenticity of her boobs. I admit, I did plenty of speculating during her topless shower scene.
Anyway, one thing leads to another, and soon enough, our friends have dragged out the stone box and are playing the game. It can be described as a twisted version of Truth or Dare – with every role of the dice, the player picks a card and is instructed to reveal, and act upon, deep seeded hostilities and desires. What starts off as an airing of grievances quickly becomes dangerous, some characters drooling and crying tears of black goo while others have visions of a (very unconvincing) fawn-like creature. This naturally begs the question of why they would continue to play, but never mind.
I distinctly remember a scene in the basement in which we clearly hear both screaming and a chainsaw; while many of the characters have left the cabin for one reason or another, two have remained upstairs to, for lack of a more revealing term, go about their business. You’d think at least one of them would have heard something from below, but apparently, they were too busy to notice anything. So, too, were the screenwriters. Had they been paying attention, they wouldn’t have tried to shock us with a plot twist at the end. It cheats so horribly that, if it were an actual game, the players would demand a rematch.
But enough about glaring technicalities. What about the film’s message? Are we to gather that friends are useless because they will only stab us in the back? That people are inherently deceitful and therefore unworthy of love and affection? That lying is, in fact, the only way to go through life? Whatever is it, it doesn’t sit well with me. The Black Waters of Echo’s Pond is an ugly, uninspired, soulless horror film – thin on premise, slow in pacing, weak in character, and made with virtually no style. It’s so tired and flimsy that it takes every ounce of energy to drag itself to the finish line, at which point we feel just as drained. Now I know why so many of these films go directly to DVD. Why be bored in a theater when you can be bored in the comfort of your own home?