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Dustin Putman

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The Black Waters of Echo's Pond  (2010)
2 Stars
Directed by Gabriel Bologna.
Cast: Danielle Harris, James Duval, Robert Patrick, Walker Howard, Arcadiy Golubovich, Nick Mennell, Electra Avellan, Elise Avellan, Mircea Monroe, M.D. Walton, Sean Lawlor, Declan Joyce, Nitsa Benchetrit, Richard Tyson, Adamo Palladino.
2010 – 91 minutes
Rated: Rated R (for violence and gore, language, drug use and some sexuality/nudity).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, April 5, 2010.
Wildly uneven production values and a script not nearly as ambitious as the plot's potential help to slowly but surely sink "The Black Waters of Echo's Pond." Written and directed by Gabriel Bologna and co-scribed by Michael Berenson and Sean Clark, the film takes its time bringing together a handful of disparate elements—the supernatural Pan legend and accompanying visions of a half-man/half-goat creature; a psychological drama wherein a group of friends' long undealt-with hang-ups are faced; a possession-cum-slasher pic—and then really doesn't do with them anything viewers haven't seen before.

Nine post-collegiate friends—Anton (Arcadiy Golubovich) and wife Erica (Elise Avellan); Josh (Nick Mennell) and fiancée Renee (Electra Avellan); Kathy (Danielle Harris) and boyfriend Trent (Walker Howard); B-movie actress Veronique (Mircea Monroe); straight-laced mortgage broker Robert (M.D. Walton), and outsider Rick (James Duval)—reunite on Maine's isolated Beacon Island for a weekend stay at a Victorian mansion owned by gun-toting lone resident Pete (Robert Patrick). When they stumble upon an elaborate board game in the basement—originally discovered during a 1927 archaeological dig in Turkey before being transported to the States—the lot of them decide to play. As they delve further into the game, dark truths are spoken and an uninhibited evil is released that turn them violently against each other.

"The Black Waters of Echo's Pond" has a fair amount going for it, but not much of a payoff. The visualization of the Pan creature is fittingly creepy and utilized just subtly enough that it never becomes overkill, while the deliberately paced first half is appreciated in order to introduce the characters and their personal conflicts with other members of the group. Kathy's anger at Rick, whom she blames for the drunk-driving death of her brother, is palpably felt, and so is Trent's jealousy over getting Robert a job only to watch him excel past him to a supervisor position. Having characters that are a little older than the norm—still twenty-somethings, but beyond school-age—is also a nice change of pace. The continuation of their playing of the game even as certain characters disperse is where the strained plotting begins. Before long, they look like they have all lost interest, but continue rolling the dice because the script necessitates it.

By the time Pan's spirit is burrowing its way into the feuding pals' eyes and soul, forcing them to commit homicidal crimes, the picture has turned into an unmemorable stalk-torture-kill affair. Whether because of the lack of budget or too much restraint on director Gabriel Bologna's part, many of the death scenes happen off-screen, and nothing else about the film is interesting enough for these money shots to not be missed. It also doesn't help that there are few characters worth actively rooting for; all of them, even lead protagonists Kathy and Rick, reveal selfish, unsavory sides before all is said and done. That Kathy is never able to make amends with Rick even in the face of great terror and turmoil strips her character of a much-needed arc that might have brought some depth to the sluggish and lazy third act. Despite this screenplay letdown, horror vet Danielle Harris (2009's "Halloween II") give's the movie's most noble and steadfast turn as Kathy. Elise and Electra Avellan (2007's "Grindhouse"), as twins Erica and Renee, also give off a very fetching, natural vibe. Better films hopefully await them.

Solid horror films that have done their proper job put a sense of unease and disquiet in the viewer. They also, in some cases, may excite and even frighten them. "The Black Waters of Echo's Pond" does not do these things. Story momentum never rises as it should, characters aren't likable enough to care about, special effects range from the capable to the chintzy, and the whole mythological angle of Pan is left unexplored and undernourished. When the picture ends, it is with a shrug instead of a bang. That "The Black Waters of Echo's Pond" is receiving a theatrical release without being a remake or studio-financed is an achievement in itself. It's just too bad the finished product couldn't be of higher quality.
© 2010 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman