Runtime: 90 Minutes
Director/Writer: Ping Lumpraploeng
Stars: Theeradej Wongpuapan, Ratnamon Ratchiratham
By Harris Dang
When one chooses to make a film and don it with a simple title, the filmmakers have to make sure that they have to make a stellar film in order for the simple title to work. Titles like “The Banker” (2020), “The Accountant” (2016), “Crawl” (2019), “John Carter” (2012) etc. all sound boring on paper and one would hope that the quality of the film does not reflect the blandness of the titles. But there is the case where a film’s title can reflect the quality of the film positively to the point that other films follow suit i.e “Jaws” (1975) and “Police Story” (1985). Now we have the Shudder premiere of the 2018 horror film from Thailand, “The Pool” (2018). Again, the title sounds awfully boring but the premise makes it sound promising. Will it exceed the low expectations projected from its moniker?
The basic yet ridiculous high-concept premise is simple. A man gets trapped in an empty pool with a crocodile in tow and he does everything in his power to escape. If you love your “animal-attack” films along the lines of “Jaws” (1975), “Crawl” (2019) or the creature feature “Sweetheart” (2019), you will love “The Pool” (2018). The main reason why “The Pool” (2018) works successfully is that it manages to straddle the line between utmost sincerity and escalating absurdity extremely well. The film sets up its stakes and plot devices with hilariously remarkable efficiency i.e. sources of food (via Pizza Hut!), character backstories, lifelines and medical appliances. The film even name-drops the Robert Zemeckis film “Cast Away” (2001) as a joke, which shows what kind of territory the audience is expecting.
“The basic yet ridiculous high-concept premise is simple…If you love your “animal-attack” films along the lines of “Jaws” (1975), “Crawl” (2019) or the creature feature “Sweetheart” (2019), you will love “The Pool” (2018).”
The escalation of tension is pitch-perfect from writer/director Ping Lumpraploeng, as he clearly knows the difference between horror and comedy as well as how both genres can be suspenseful in how he handles the delivery of scares as well as the punchline. His skill in portraying the settings (the titular pool, the sewer pipes) is maximalist in execution but Lumpraploeng makes the most out of the claustrophobic factors. Not to mention, the use of the dog Lucky is emblematic of how well the film works. The actors also help the proceedings considerably. Ratnamon Ratchiratham charms and provides a sympathetic presence as Koy, making it easy to believe that the lead character Day would do almost anything for her. Theeradej Wongpuapan (who reminds this reviewer of Hong Kong actor Tony Leung Chiu-wai at times) is fantastic as Day. His role is physically and mentally strenuous and Wongpuapan has to convince the audience that his resilience and his sanity are both hanging by a thread as the film’s stakes escalate and he accomplishes that brilliantly. So much so that some of the decisions that Day makes are remarkably believable in context of the character’s state of mind; even if they are not the smartest decisions.
“The escalation of tension is pitch-perfect from writer/director Ping Lumpraploeng, as he clearly knows the difference between horror and comedy as well as how both genres can be suspenseful in how he handles the delivery of scares as well as the punchline.”
As for its negatives, the film does become overly absurd to the point where the suspension of disbelief in viewers will be put to the test; especially when the film aggressively puts its lead characters through the wringer. The CGI is also subpar given the film’s low budget; the crocodile in particular never looks truly convincing even if it still works as a genuine threat.
But the major talking point is when a moment in the climax of the film that will be extremely upsetting for viewers. While the film is never exploitative of this moment nor does it aim to be cruel in its purpose but it is a trigger warning and it will be spoiled in the next sentence. Highlight it in order to see it. SPOILER: The dog Lucky is placed in a life-or-death situation in the climax. Overall, “The Pool” (2018) is a fantastic animal attack film that exceeds expectations from its title by delivering exactly what it promises and proves once again that meager resources and restrictions can help inspire creativity. “The Pool” (2018) is now showing on Shudder.