“The Pool” is a Thai-made Drama/Thriller, Written and Directed by Ping Lumpraploeng. The story centers around Day (played by Theeradej Wongpuapan), a struggling young man who finds himself in a life or death situation after becoming trapped in the confines of an empty swimming pool whilst working on a production with his girlfriend, Koi (Ratnamon Ratchiratham). I stumbled upon The Pool after seeing a few websites already covering it and doing so with mostly positive commentary. It’s a film not too dissimilar to last year’s white-knuckler “Crawl”, as well as other thrillers like “Open Water”. I’m a sucker for a good creature feature and the promise of a big bad ‘gator’ was enough to get me invested initially.
In all my years of movie watching, I think I’ve only had the opportunity to see a couple of films that have come out of Thailand, so something like this makes for a nice change of pace. The opening frames depicting a bruised and bloodied man slowly coming to, only to discover (in tandem with the audience), a painfully CG generated alligator attempting to gnaw on his leg doesn’t necessarily make for the most polished of starts. We then go back several days in order to discover how said man wound up in this extremely unfortunate predicament. The film’s production values appear quite high, with some genuinely good cinematography, a crisp edit, and smart use of what is essentially just one location for the vast majority of the film. It’s a pretty tall order at the best of times when you’re given the responsibility of carrying an entire film, even more so when you’ve got a pair of fairly inexperienced actors. The end result, as one might expect, is a bit of a mixed bag. Ratnamon has a few moments where she showcases her raw emotions and is quite good, other parts of her delivery are sadly lacking, so in turn, the overall believability does. Theeradej possesses the appropriate physique that could very well be beneficial in a situation such as the one at the core of The Pool, it’s just a shame that his character Day has the brain capacity of a lima bean. I do have to give credit where credit’s due in saying there are a series of thoroughly entertaining sequences over the course of what is a nicely paced film. At times (usually in wider shots), the creature itself looks quite good, especially taking into account the film’s low-budget price tag in relation to its Hollywood counterparts.
There’s only one phrase that anyone in their right mind could use to describe The Pool though (well actually that’s not true, but I’d wager they’d just be slight variations of the following) “It’s as dumb as a box of rocks” (which when you think about it, makes absolutely no sense) – much like this film. It’s one thing to get past the basic premise of it – which I could (a guy trapped in a 6 ft deep pool void of water) but the boneheaded mechanics of the writing regarding characters and their decision making simply has to be seen to be believed. I’m not usually one to get into spoiler territory – so perhaps a little disclaimer is what’s required here (consider yourself disclaimed!). The Pool consists of one ridiculous twist and turn after another (most of which make little sense) and I’m going to go on ahead and lay some of those out for you and that’ll hopefully inform you well enough to gauge whether or not this film might be for you. I get the feeling that perhaps Ping did a first draft of the script, followed up with a re-read (a once over), and then the production got green-lit without anyone else having proofed it or raised any questions regarding the beats of those plot points. It’s established in the beginning that our protagonist suffers from diabetes (not sure what type) and requires insulin to maintain a steady pH count. So you’d expect with that in mind, he’d have some sort of timer to keep track of his shots yeah? – Nah. Guess what? If he did, he could’ve set a timer on his phone and he wouldn’t have fallen asleep and let half the water drain out of the pool. Stupid, right? Yes, I’m well aware this is a film and that without those actions it has nowhere to go, but at the very least, have him set a timer, and then perhaps the battery goes flat or something along those lines. Anything – because the alternative is moronic. In the words of Canadian rockers, Bachman-Turner Overdrive “You ain’t seen nothing yet”.
So more than just the fact that Day falls asleep and wakes to find the water levels have decreased significantly, the question has to be asked about why he’s even relaxing in the first place. It’s as if we’re supposed to believe he’s been working some extremely physical job or something. The whole setup just doesn’t make any sense, especially when the guy’s clearly a lackey and a dog handler on a film set. The next move he makes is choosing to save his dog (and I get it we all love our pets) but he does so over retrieving his phone (which is poolside and a potential lifesaver) which is conveniently making its way closer and closer to the edge of the pool courtesy of vibration during a call from Koi. I’ll let the readers put two and two together as to how that one ends, let’s just say I’m not sure phone’s vibrate enough to move half a metre (haha). Before one of Day’s co-worker’s leaves, he tells him that he’ll order a pizza for Day as a thank you for hanging back and being the last person to leave. As luck would have it (or bad writing, you be the judge) the pizza delivery man arrives at the exact moment Day decides to swim to the bottom of the pool to mess with the grate, and to make matters worse, something on his shorts gets tangled up in it. Needless to say, the pizza guy gets on his bike, and Day ends up back at square one – this happens countless times. Some will argue that panic often sets in and so he could’ve easily forgotten what his friend had said about the pizza – okay, I’ll play along. What’s the excuse then for him being asleep yet again when Koi finally arrives!? (which he must have known was going to happen at some point). What follows is one of the dumbest things I’ve seen committed to screen in quite a while. Not to mention it was as telegraphed as they come because I recalled an earlier conversation about jumping in the pool. Because the film needs Koi to end up in the pool, Day wakens (again) to find her all but ready to jump off the platform. It’s that exact moment (of course it is) that he proceeds to yell out at her and not knowing the context, she freaks out, slips, and bangs her head on the back of the platform. Oh, but wait, there’s more.
So a whole array of things get knocked into the pool when the alligator slips on some piping and winds up in the pool (yes, he slips). An empty bucket and gaffer tape are among the two most useful items. Common sense would suggest you use the bucket to catch rain water so you’ve got something to drink, right? I didn’t once see Day take a drink throughout his five or six days in the pool (or however long it was) but he was willing to stick his hand in the creature’s mouth to retrieve the gaffer tape. I could at least understand his need to retrieve that in order to bandage wounds – that and he uses it to mark out a help S.O.S (one of the only half smart things he does over the course of the movie). He’s able to loosen the pool manhole but after turning his back to attend to Koi, the gator beats him down it. Day has no choice but to gamble and begin navigating beneath to try to find a way out. Does he cover the hole over when he goes down it? He sure does…..n’t. Come on people, seriously? This is basic common sense stuff when it comes to writing. What do we think happens? Those of you who are betting that the gator comes back up into the pool and is now face to face with a helpless Koi would be absolutely correct (haha). We’ll just ignore that Day somehow picks the gator up off the ground by its tail, which if you know the weight of one of those things, just isn’t possible. Other examples of complete ineptitude from our protagonist are that he has within his grasp, on a piece of cloth, the much-needed shot of insulin. This is the time to be oh so steady and careful, Oh wait, no it’s not! silly me… it’s the time to yank it with a force so it trickles back into the pool and smashes. If all that wasn’t enough, the real corker, the true humdinger moment that takes the proverbial cake in The Pool, comes in the third act when after going through metaphorical hell and back (mostly due to his own doing), Day thinks he’s reached salvation only to discover there’s an identical pool next to the one he’s been in the whole time. Uh, what? Say again. I mean it’s not like that’s something he would’ve already known. It’s not as if he’s been on a film set in that exact spot for night after night or anything. Clearly, a massive pool was just something he didn’t see, that must have been what it was…..
Okay, that’s enough of that. Trust me when I say I could go on and on (haha). Despite the fact that it probably reads like I despised The Pool, I really didn’t and it entertained me quite a bit. Now, that’s not to say that it’s not an absolute hot mess with more holes than a cheese grater and something that firmly falls under the “guilty pleasure” heading and could never be anything else but. The technical aspects are mostly competent, excluding some rather rough CG when it comes to action sequences that involve the creature, the actors are okay considering there’s just the two, and there are a few really fun scenes with good pacing. One simply just can’t deny that the premise is non-sensical and far-fetched from the get-go, and the writing is extremely flawed in almost every facet. WARNING: I feel like I need to disclose to animal lovers that there is a graphic (although bloodless) on-screen death that pissed me off, and is actually in rather poor taste (as the sound design itself would’ve sufficed) especially considering everything the characters experience over the course of the film. That’s about it, The Pool is now available for viewing on various streaming platforms and you can check out the official trailer below!
The Pool – 4.5/10