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‘Death Pool’ (review)

Produced by Gabriel Campisi, Jared Cohn,
Demetrius Stear, David S. Sterling, Randy Wayne
Written and Directed by Jared Cohn
Starring Sara Malakul Lane, Randy Wayne
Shawn C. Phillips, Afton Jillian, James Cullen Bressack, Walker Mintz, Karalynn Dunton

The joys of summer: backyard barbecues, tanning in the welcoming sun and swimming in chlorine-filled pools. But what if one of these favorite summer pastimes spelled instant death?

In the generically titled Death Pool, it turns summer fun into one of the most ludicrous horror movies that leaves you more befuddled than afraid.

Part sick, part sad and funny, Death Pool feels like a Lifetime/Syfy movie gone awry that exploits real-life events for a rather confusing and uneven movie.

Johnny Taylor was an innocent boy until his parents left him in the care of his babysitter who had a sick panache for tormenting Johnny in the family’s swimming pool. After a near-drowning experience he’s developed a fear of water, even struggling to bathe himself as an adult. You feel a sense of sadness for him as he struggles with the his daily washing routine. However, Johnny has decided channel his water fear into drowning pretty women, a sick act his babysitter liked to do on Johnny.

Also known as the The Valley Drowner, our serial killer is drawn to women who happily play in pools so much so that he takes a job cleaning swimming pools with his best friend Brandon (Demetrius Stear). While cleaning pools helps him stay focused so much he can touch water without going into a full meltdown. However, he’s still drawn to killing women and beings to fed off the power it gives him, that he becomes more brazen and public with his killings. As a result, Johnny develops a cult-like following that really reflects our society and people’s hunger for fame.

Death Pool is one-of-kind. Unlike other horror/thrillers it doesn’t follow any formula and is hard to pin down what the director, Jared Cohn, was trying to accomplish.

Was it meant to be a satire? A thriller? A comedy?

Johnny is not neither threatening nor shy; falling into a more of a forgettable personality, there’s nothing that makes you gravitate towards the character or even care. Yes, his killings are wrong but it’s still hard to find a reason to feel sympathetic them nor his actions once Johnny becomes an adult.

Written and directed by Jared Cohn, Death Pool starts out with an intriguing premise that asks some serious questions about child abuse and psychology. However, after a while I couldn’t help but wonder how can one person kill so many people in a crowded pool without anyone noticing? The amount of victims he accumulates is similar to a Sharknado movie.

Featuring a cast a porn stars, nudity and independent filmmakers like James Cullen Bressack and Sara Malakul Lane, the latter who has a small part as Johnny’s ex-girlfriend, they carry the movie with intelligence and captivating presence that is unfortunately wasted as time goes on. Instead of intelligence, Death Pool relies on big, brash porn stars, large amounts of drugs, loud parties and stereotypical blondes that take away from the movie’s uniqueness.

However, it’s not a complete waste (at first). Starting out as movie that wants to explore the makings of a serial killer it dissolves into an exploitative and misogynistic movie that’s determined to rack up as many female nude scenes as possible. Cohn has delivered an uneven rushed film, but there are moments that builds on tension. Unfortunately, like the movie these promising scenes manages to go nowhere but to the Land of Disappointment.

The cinematography is rather consistently beautiful and surprisingly the acting isn’t a complete waste. Randy Wayne as Johnny is conflicted and dangerous while his best friend, Demetrius, has great chemistry with him.

Death Pool is weird and worth watching only once in your life if only for the laughs. It doesn’t bring anything new to the genre but there are unintentional over-the-top fun moments that’s good for a boring rainy day.


Death Pool is now available on DVD and On Demand.


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