Review by Sean Boelman
The creature feature is a subgenre of horror that many would say is overdone, but in recent years, it has experienced a bit of a revitalization with filmmakers using the setup to give audiences simple, old-school thrills. The new Thai film The Pool does just that, offering plenty of great moments within a lean ninety-minute runtime.
The movie follows a couple who find themselves stranded in an abandoned six-meter pool (that’s twenty feet for those who prefer the customary system) with a crocodile and no ladder to escape. It’s a simple and clear-cut premise, but that is exactly what this type of film calls for, and there are enough unexpected moments to keep the audience on their toes.
Perhaps the most impressive thing about the movie is its lead performance from Theeradej Wongpuapan. Unlike other creature features, Wongpuapan doesn’t have a prominent co-star, only sharing the screen with a few others for a few minutes at the time. As such, it is up to Wongpuapan to sell the emotion of the film, and he does so quite well.
Perhaps what is most intriguing about this movie is that the monster is only the secondary threat, with the overwhelming depth of the pool being the true beast that the characters must conquer. In fact, the crocodile isn’t even introduced into the equation until about thirty minutes in, that first half hour being more intense than anything that comes for the rest of the film.
That said, the movie does have some significant weaknesses, particularly in regards to its character development. Early on, there are some plot elements introduced, and in a clear-cut example of Chekhov’s gun, come back into play later. However, the payoff is rarely satisfying, and the anticipation the audience invests in these threads distracts from the suspense of the main storylines.
The film’s romantic subplot is also a bit underwhelming. Unfortunately, the female character serves very little purpose other than to give the male protagonist a motivation for escape. While this lends the movie an emotional core that capitalizes on the most basic of human instincts, the reliance on such a problematic trope keeps it from standing out within the genre.
It’s hard to criticize the visual style of the film, because it is obvious that the filmmakers did the best they could with the resources they had, but there are a few scenes in which the CGI looks cheesy. That said, the use of the minimalistic set is excellent, and every single sequence without the beastly antagonist is pretty exhilarating.
The Pool does struggle to stay above water in a few of its more conventional moments, but it’s a fun creature feature nevertheless. For a genre that was once thought to have drowned long ago, it is nice to see a ninety-minute thrill ride like this.
The Pool is now streaming on Shudder.