23rd Aug2014

Frightfest 2014: ‘The Drownsman’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Michelle Mylett, Caroline Korycki, Gemma Bird Matheson, Sydney Kondruss, Clare Bastable, Ry Barrett, JoAnn Nordstrom | Written by Chad Archibald, Cody Calahan | Directed by Chad Archibald

thedrownsman-cast

Chad Archibald, producer of Antisocial (a personal fave) turns his hand to directing with a film which, whilst not a patch on Black Fawn Films previous effort, is still a bold attempt to create an all-new horror villain in The Drownsman. Plus, what’s not to like about another film starring the wonderful Michelle Mylett?

This time round Mylett plays Madison who, after almost drowning in a lake, develops debilitating hydrophobia and with good reason. It’s not just water the frightens Madison, it’s the supernatural entity that continually haunts her through it, a rancid ghostly entity trying to pull her into his dark, wet world. Her friends, worried for her sanity, decide to stage an intervention – with dire consequences. Their attempts to help their friend only unleash the drownsman’s rage on the group putting all their lives in danger.

There’s a real old-school feel to Archibald’s The Drownsman, maybe it’s the slasher-esque vibe running through the film, which reminded me of the likes of J.S. Cardone’s supernatural horror The Slayer, or maybe it’s the fact that the titular villain harkens back to the likes of Freddy Krueger and Horace Pinker from Wes Craven’s much-maligned Shocker. The type of “is he real or is he not” monster that nightmares are made of. In fact the film shares a lot in common with the Nightmare on Elm Street series; it has the same dream-like logic and the way the drownsman takes his victims from our world, manipulating water to do his bidding, to his – pulling them through puddles of water on a table, squeezing bodies in a small sink – echoes similar kills in the NOES franchise.

For all the talk of dream-like logic in The Drownsman, it also has lapses in it’s own internal logic, with one plot hole so vast it stuck in my mind throughout the film – if Madison is so afraid of water she has to take liquids through an intravenous drip, how the hell does she keep clean? A silly question yes. But given how much of the early part of the movie rests on her debilitating hydrophobia it seems a little disingenuous to not at least mention it in passing (as is done with Madison’s fluid intake). There’s also the matter of complete strangers being allowed to see a psych patient without presenting any ID because “visitors might be good for her”? A necessary gap in logic maybe – to move the plot forward, but one that really grated on me.

As an homage to the works of Carpenter, Craven et al. it works. As a origin story for a new franchise villain it works. As a movie? Well if you’re willing to ignore the odd flaw even in the films own internal logic like I did, then The Drownsman works. If not…

*** 3/5

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