Originality is a hard thing to come by in serial killer movies. If you are a true horror movie fan, you have seen every possible scenario that there is. That is, until you’ve seen DEATH POOL. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a movie about a serial drowner, but here it is. DEATH POOL resonated with me on a personal level. My brother died of drowning, and I’ve never felt comfortable about the idea of swimming. Whenever a film can evoke a emotional response, it’s a good thing.
The film starts within a flashback of our main character, Johnny Taylor (Randy Wayne), as a small child, who has an abusive babysitter who forces him to go swimming when he doesn’t want to, and then pushes his head under the water, which gives him the feeling of drowning, and scares the shit out of him.
Flash forward, and Johnny is now a buff stud/ metalhead/ stoner, who is afraid of the water. Not only that, but he’s an unemployed adult film actor. I’m guessing that Johnny’s shitty experience as a child has lead him to became a complete garbage person. It’s trite pop psychology, but there are worse horror tropes that could be used to establish anti-social behavior.
In walks Johnny’s best friend Brandon (Demetrius Stear), who also works in the porn industry, but isn’t getting much work. Brandon offers Johnny a side gig helping him clean pools. Huge red flag — don’t do it Johnny, total trigger warning! Hey, money is money and so what if it turns Johnny into a complete lunatic.
After the two of them clean the pool of a hot, young, female client, everybody leaves, but Johnny returns. This is not going to end well. She invites him into the pool for a dip on a hot summer day, and to return the favor Johnny violently drowns her. Johnny then finds he feels empowered by drowning women. Our studly killer continues on a drowning spree, having found a way to get his kicks. Pools and drowning beautiful women is an original modus operandi, DEATH POOL definitely gets points for creativity. I dig the hands-on approach to serial killing.
In order to avoid the police, Johnny moves back in with his parents, and that doesn’t seem suspicious at all. He is feeling down in the dumps, and in order to lift his spirits, his buddy Brandon invites him to a porn-star pool party. What better place for a serial drowner to go and have a good time?
Johnny finally admits to Brandon that he is the serial drowner. Instead of freaking out and calling the police, Brandon becomes enthralled with the idea of his best friend being a serial killer. As fucked up an idea as that it is, it’s really not too far fetched. Brandon even goes as far as to help Johnny, telling him he needs to leave notes to increase his popularity.
As the drownings pile up, so does Johnny’s popularity. I understand having a fascination with true crime and serial killers, as I have one myself, but to see them as some kind of hero is a whole different ball of sick and twisted. The feeling of Johnny’s celebrity is disgusting, but not unfeasible. The whole story arc screams SERIAL MOM. The over-acting and ridiculous script give DEATH POOL all the more of a John Waters feel to it.
The cycle of killing, serial killer culture worship, and running from the law continues. The proto industrial/post metal soundtrack and nihilistic story arc bring to mind early Gregg Araki films like THE DOOM GENERATION and NOWHERE. Just when you think DEATH POOL has run out of steam, it ends unexpectedly.
DEATH POOL is an original take on tried and true formula. It breaks the rules, while still staying in line. It has an Italian feel, but that could just be the misogynistic angle of the film. It’s as if Lucio Fulci wanted to make a hybrid of S.F.W.and HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER. DEATH POOL is dirty, no rules, kind of fun, and it’s even better if you love titties, because there are plenty of half naked women throughout the entire movie. Oh, and why the fuck does Shawn C. Phillips have a cameo in almost every indie horror movie I’ve watched lately?