Monday, 13 October 2014

THE DROWNSMAN - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Toronto After Dark Film Festival 2014

The old "Red Rose Tea" slogan:
"Only in Canada, you say? A pity."
The Drownsman (2014)
Dir. Chad Archibald
Script. Archibald & Cody Calahan
Starring: Michelle Mylett, Caroline Korycki, Gemma Bird Matheson, Sydney Kondruss, Clare Bastable, Ry Barrett, JoAnn Nordstrom, Breanne TeBoekhorst

Review By Greg Klymkiw

The Canuck creative team responsible for last year’s modest apocalyptic “infection” thriller Antisocial are virtual poster boys for the (not-so) stereotypical notion that Canadians are indeed quaintly polite. The Drownsman, their all-new idiosyncratic, almost politically mindful and artistically fetishistic lunatic will never fill the mighty shoes of 70s/80s slicers-and-dicers like Jason Voorhees, Freddie Kreuger and Michael Myers. He has, it seems, no interest in stalking, hacking and/or maiming his nubile victims. His needs are simple. He wishes to drown them. Like the old Commonwealth adage, "No sex, please, we're British," The Drownsman revels in its colonial roots with, “No bloodletting, please, we're Canadian (though drowning will do very nicely with our maple syrup, thanks).”

Delivering what amounts to an origin story for a fatally flawed franchise-to-be, the opening few minutes find us in a dank chamber where our title wacko (Ry Barrett), a hulking, greasily bedraggled rogue hauls a fetching babe into a metal tub. He shoves her head into the water, but it turns out to be the fruitcake's lucky day. Our harassed honey, desperate to survive, proposes he make love to her. The sneaky vixen allows the bounder to expunge his unholy seed within her loins. Whilst he shudders in post-orgasmic bliss, the lithe lassie is able to plunge the creep into the water and drown him.

Twenty-or-so years pass. Hannah (Caroline Korycki) hustles her hot BFF Madison (burgeoning Canuck Scream-Queen Michelle Mylett from Antisocial) to a dock just below the country home where an engagement party is raging. The gals look deeply into each other's eyes and though Sapphic gymnastics loom tantalizingly, we’re instead treated to a "bestie" hug. Hannah asks Madison to be her Maid of Honor then immediately excuses herself to go off and take a slash, thus allowing Madison to conveniently slip, fall, whack her noggin on the floor of the dock and roll into the water. A rotting ghostly version of the drowned psycho-water-fetishist from the picture’s opening offers Madison a malevolent howdy-doo, but she’s plucked handily out of harm’s way by a gaggle of rescue-minded babes. How safe she or her friends will eventually be remains to be seen when it's revealed that the purulent, waterlogged drowning-aficionado is her biological Dad (lest we forget the vaginal pounding he delivered).

One year later, on the night of Hannah's wedding, Madison quivers under the blankets in her bedroom as it rains cats and dogs outdoors. Hannah unexpectedly bursts in. It seems our troubled heroine has skipped her Maid of Honor duties and the blushing bride is crimson with anger. Since her brush with the Drownsman, Madison has been a basket case. She's now so terrified of water that she can't even drink it, requiring a constant I.V. to keep her flush with fluids. Since her fear of water nixes showers and bathtubs, why Hannah would want a foul, rank, unwashed Maid of Honor, albeit one who looks surprisingly scrubbed and gorgeous at all times, is perhaps the film's greatest mystery. The next evening Madison’s babe pals plan to cure her hydrophobia once and for all by dunking her in a tub full of H2O.

At this point, one might be thinking, "Horror movies don't all have to be stupid, do they?"

Though it’s tempting to applaud the film’s makers for trying to create a new 70s/80s-style signature killer, there’s something a touch imbecilic about one who literally sucks babes through the drain pipes of pretty much any receptacle that holds water so he can drown them. Sadly, he never once has the good humour to use a toilet bowl or bidet. This is indeed, the trouble. The movie is so deadly serious and completely without humour (a hallmark of classic horror-meisters, especially Wes Craven) that the meandering screenplay by helmer Chad Archibald and co-scribe Cody Calahan barely generates any shivers. Worse yet, The Drownsman doesn't even qualify as unintentionally funny. It’s simply a style-bereft misfire.

Some of its tech credits hold up admirably under the weight of the film’s low budget and general artistic malaise. The design of the title psycho ghost is suitably grotesque, the lensing and lighting prove adequately sharp, a creepily effective musical score manages to rise above its stock origins and leading lassie Michelle Mylett is clearly a decent actress whom the camera truly loves. She’ll no doubt be in demand for much better work. The uninspired film’s life, however, seems destined to play-off for bamboozled horror fans who make the mistake of choosing to partake via the usual home entertainment platforms this should be handily relegated to.

And you know, it seems somewhat egregious when filmmakers deliver a no-to-low-budget horror movie that's ultimately a dreadful idea with bad writing, but is replete with babes and none of them are naked - or hell, even attired more aggressively in their undies. This is the nadir of stupidity.

THE FILM CORNER RATING: *½ One-and-a-half-stars.

The Drownsman has its Toronto Premiere at the 2014 edition of the Toronto After Dark Film Festival. It will be released via Anchor Bay Entertainment Canada.