J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Fantasia ’14: The Drownsman

It is not just a horror film, it is also a PSA for water conservation. When Sebastian Donner was a mortal serial killer, drowning was his M.O. Once he moved into the supernatural realm, he now stalks his victims through water. That leaky faucet is not just wasteful. It could be downright deadly in Chad Archibald’s The Drownsman (trailer here), which screened during the 2014 Fantasia International Film Festival.

Madison always lived for her time with her three close girl friends, until her freak near drowning accident. Since then, she has been plagued by visions of a shadowy figure dispatching victims in his custom made aquariums. To make matters worse, he seems to be equally aware of Madison. The fear has become so debilitating Madison cannot even fulfill her maid of honor duties during her best friend Hannah’s wedding. Exasperated by her behavior, the three women stage an intervention, at which point Cathryn the psychic is supposed to make a show of exorcising the spirit tormenting her. Of course, Cathryn quickly realizes something very real and scary is afoot, but the other women do not want to hear it.

Right, the bogus exorcism is always a super plan. Considering all this bother was kicked up by Madison’s absence at Hannah’s wedding, you also might think her husband would factor in the story somehow, but he is nowhere to be found. Still, Drownsman is strangely effective in a throwback kind of way—sort of like Wes Craven’s Shocker, but with water instead of electricity. There are some genuinely scary scenes and Archibald nicely maintains an atmosphere of escalating dread. However, the lack of a strong personality for the Drownsman is a real drawback. He is no Freddy Kruger, or even a Horace Pinker (the Shocker stalker played by a pre-X-Files Mitch Pileggi).

Michelle Mylett is pretty good as the distraught and disturbed Madison, while Caroline Korycki is memorably type-A as Hannah. However, the rest of the doomed women do not make much of an impression. Likewise, Ry Barrett never gets the face time to create any sort of hooky characteristics or catch phrases that so help in establishing horror franchises.

Drownsman often feels very late 1980s-early 1990s, which is not a bad thing. It delivers enough for horror fans looking for a fix, but it unlikely to breakout to wider audiences. Recommended for loyal local audiences with modest expectations, The Drownsman represented Fantasia’s continuing commitment to Canadian filmmakers when it screened during the festival.

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