Horror Movie Review – Death Pool (2017)

Death Pool, also known as The Valley Drowner, is a serial killer movie telling the story of Johnny Taylor. Johnny has a big problem: he LOVES to drown good-looking girls. When he sees water and attractive females together, something in his head begs him to kill – the psychological result of a traumatic near-drowning during his childhood at the hands of a twisted babysitter.

From MTI Home Video, Death Pool will be released on DVD and Video on Demand on the 20th of June. It is written and directed by Jared Cohen (The Horde, Hold Your Breath) and stars Randy Wayne (Honey 2, Hellraiser: Judgement) as killer Johnny Taylor.

Death Pool

Based on true events, Death Pool doesn’t mess about with anything like suspense, or having the viewer wondering who the killer is. More in the vain of an American Psycho, the killer is announced very early on in the film and we get to watch his spree as he gains infamy and, weirdly, legendary status.

The film starts with Johnny as a young boy, played by Walker Mintz. His parents are popping out for the evening and he seems very reluctant to be left with the babysitter, a young girl called Debbie (Jessica Long). It turns out Debbie is a bit messed up so she drags young Johnny out to the pool, forces him in and tales pleasure in holding his head under the water.

Death Pool

This traumatic experience has messed up adult Johnny, who we meet soon after. He has a real phobia of water, understandably, and we see him struggle to even have a wash. He stands far from the shower, catching a few drops on a flannel to scrub himself. These building scenes are great. Randy does a fantastic job here making you feel real sympathy for Johnny.

Johnny is down on his luck and struggling for work so has little choice but to take a job offered to him by his best friend, Brandon (Demetrius Stear). That job is cleaning swimming pools. Johnny braves his fear and gets to work though we quickly see his mental state change. While cleaning the pool, with a couple more pretty young girls lounging about, Johnny’s past comes back and takes over.

Death Pool

He returns to the pool after Brandon has left, forces himself into the water alongside one of the girls, and re-enacts his childhood experience by holding Kasey’s (Nash Carter) head under the water until she is dead. What happens next in Death Pool is one of the most dramatic escalations you will see. Johnny doesn’t take time to chill and regret what he has done. He doesn’t even consider regret and instead, buoyed by the high he felt in killing Kasey, goes on a fast and brutal spree.

He kills a stranger in a public swimming pool and even drowns his land lady. Johnny returns to his parents home after this and, together with his wingman Brandon, starts to frequent parties. Johnny hunts his prey at these parties by picking off loners before leaving them floating and disappearing into the night. The parties are all weed and coke fuelled, porn parties, headed by a porn king called Billy Bonzo (Shawn C Phillips), so it is plausible the police would think they were accidents at first.

Death Pool

As more killings happen, the media start reporting on a possible serial killer at which point Johnny confesses to Brandon. Weirdly, Brandon thinks it is great and starts helping Johnny select people. He makes sure to point out that an estranged ex of Johnny’s, Scarlet (Sara Malakul Lane), is in town too. Just in case, you know.

Johnny continues killing and Brandon continues being the most weirdly loyal friend imaginable. As more bodies fall, Johnny soon gets labelled “The Valley Drowner” by the media and, again weirdly, the local youth population become a dedicated fan base for him. They throw parties, hoping he will appear and have pro Johnny shirts made up. So strange.

Death Pool

The police know who Johnny is now and they are closing in. Johnny needs to keep killing and  his “fans” are praying for him to kill again. Some even beg him to come and kill them. Can Johnny escape and does he even want to? How many more people will fall before he is stopped? Check out Death Pool on the 20th of June to find out.

Death Pool is an odd film. It certainly doesn’t follow any standard genre template almost feeling comical, or tongue in cheek at times. Johnny doesn’t really come across as scary, per se. You do feel a little bit of sympathy for his terrible experiences as a child but I think it is just the whole setting that makes it feel less horror and more “what the fuck”.

Death Pool

The big, brash porn stars, copious amounts of drugs, loud parties, dumb blondes, really odd friend loyalty and nutty serial killer fan bases take away any feeling too sinister. To be fair to the film makers, I don’t think they were going for tense and suspenseful. I think they wanted an eyebrow raising, fast and in your face film and that is what it is. A lot of people die in this film in a very short time. I’m okay with that and it is entertaining to watch but you obviously don’t get a huge amount of character development when moving at this great a speed.

Death Pool

The film is shot well so no annoying camera angles and lots of girls in bikinis. The acting is mostly very good. Randy Wayne is great as Johnny, coming across equally confused and dangerous while his best friend, Demetrius, has brilliant chemistry with him. You even get a nice little guest spot from the brilliant director of Bethany, James Cullen Bressack. There are a few weaker spots, with one or two of the supposedly drowned people slightly moving their mouths or twitching though it isn’t too noticeable and doesn’t impact anything too negatively.

In summary, Death Pool is an interesting and odd film. It’s worth a watch though probably just one. Besides, you would not believe how many ways there are to drown a person!

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Horror Movie Review - Death Pool
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