J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Death Pool: The San Fernando Valley’s Home-Grown Serial Killer

Due to a childhood trauma, Johnny Taylor has an aversion to all water, except bong-water. Unfortunately, he is about to have a breakthrough. Instead of fearing the water, it will bring out the latent woman-hating serial killer inside him in Jared Cohn’s Death Pool (trailer here), which releases today on DVD from MTI Home Video.

As a boy, Johnny Taylor (not to be confused with the vastly more talented Stax soul singer Johnnie Taylor) was nearly drowned for sport on several occasions by his pretty baby sitter. The experiences scarred him in ways the twentynothing has never recovered from. Living on handouts from his guilt-ridden parents, the porn actor washout accepts a part-time pool cleaning gig with his running mate Brandon. Returning with the intention of hooking up with a client, Taylor drowns her instead. Voila, water phobia gone. Of course, this process will repeat in numerous, unlikely ways.

Based on Death Pool, it is easy to see why so many San Fernando Valley residents wanted to secede from Los Angeles. Taylor’s killings are reckless, impulsive acts, during which time he takes absolutely no precautions to minimize physical evidence. Frankly, the LAPD is ridiculously tardy identifying him as the killer.

However, we get plenty of drug fueled porn parties to stoke Taylor’s predatory rage. There is no question Death Pool must be the most misogynistic horror film in many a moon. It also looks cheap and grubby. Heck, you would probably find better production values on a San Fernando porn shoot.

Therefore, it is rather sad to see emerging genre star Sara Malakul Lane (Sun Choke, Kickboxer: Vengeance, as well as half a dozen previous Cohn films) appearing in Death Pool as Scarlet, the ex who broke Taylor’s black heart. At least she lends a bit of professionalism to the otherwise depressing affair. Randy Wayne isn’t exactly a riveting presence as Taylor, but he seems to be enjoying himself to a problematic degree.

Cohn tries to throw in some eleventh-hour commentary regarding society’s vapid obsession with celebrities and serial killers, openly conflating the two, but it is too little, too late. What’s the deal with Cohn, anyway? The Horde was a fan-pleasing slice of B-Movie payback action that was followed by the lurid but somewhat distinctive Devil’s Domain. In contrast, Death Pool is just an ugly film in every way. Perhaps he should slow down his output three or four films a year? Regardless, Death Pool should be avoided now that it is available on DVD and VOD, from MTI Home Video.

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