THE DROWNSMAN (2014)
Label: Anchor Bay Entertainment
Region Code: A
Duration: 86 Minutes
Audio: English DolbyTrue HD 5.1 with Optional English Subtitles
Video: HD Widescreen (2.35:1)
Director: Chad Archibald
Cast: Michelle Mylett, Caroline Palmer, Gemma Bird Matheson, Sydney Kondruss, Clare Bastable, Ry Barrett, Joann Nordstrom, Samuel Borstein
Madison (Michelle Mylett) is partying with her girlfriends one night when she nearly dies after falling into the lake, while unconscious she has a vision of a dark, menacing figure who is out to get her. She is revived but is psychologically traumatized by the near-death experience. Flash forward a year and she is suffering from an extreme form of hydrophobia, a fear of water. The fear is so extreme that she won't venture outside when it's raining or even drink water from a glass, she takes her fluids intravenously. Her friends have about had it with her irrational fear of water, drawing the line when Madison misses the wedding of her best friend Hannah (Caroline Korycki). Her friends organize an intervention with the help of a psychic medium named Claire (Clare Bastable) with the group forcing Madison into the bathtub where she is forced to face her fears head-on. Not unexpectedly this goes horribly wrong when it becomes clear that something supernatural is out to get her and she nearly drowns
That supernatural something is a man named Sebastian Donner (Ry Barrett), a serial killer who abducted women and drowned them while he listened to their dying heartbeats, which is a pretty novel trademark for a killer. At the start of the film we see how Sebastian was killed by one of his would-be victims, only now he's a water-logged bogeyman who lurks in the shadows, waiting to reach out from any puddle of water to pull victims into his nightmare world and drown them.
Apparently Sebastian, or The Drownsman, only stalks you once you becomes aware of his existence, once you know of his existence he is empowered to stalk you, any source of water is a conduit from his nightmare world into yours. We see him reach out through a washing machine, a small puddle of water and so on, at times it was cool but then some of them just made me laugh, sorta of silly. As the story progresses there are revelations about possible offspring, a crazy woman in an asylum and so on, it get convoluted pretty quickly, they had a good idea, they should have just kept it simple. As for the kills, not much gore to speak of, drowning is not the most blood-soaked form of murder, this one relies more on atmosphere, suspense and psychological terror to get the job done, and in my opinion does it just okay, not great.
The design of the Drownsman is a bit of ambiguous, a dark water-logged shape that's a bit slimy and undefined, with very limited dialogue. We just don't get a lot to chew on, he's glimpsed briefly in more detail and what I could see I liked but as a character he wasn't very fleshed-out or interesting outside of the concept. Not that Madison is developed any deeper, she is actually sort of annoying and I found it hard to root for her or her friends.
Advertised as a throwback to 80s slashers I would agree with that assessment somewhat. It wears it's Wes Craven influence on it's sleeve, unfortunately it feels less like A Nightmare on Elm Street and more akin to Shocker. The Drownsman is not an awful film, it has some cool ideas floating around and a retro vibe with some cool atmosphere, but the baddie and the cast are hollow creations without much substance. I can see them angling for a Freddy Krueger versus Nancy scenario, with the bogeyman haunting his victim and her friends, but this is pretty forgettable stuff. You probably won't hate yourself for renting this one but I certainly won't be revisiting it anytime soon, this is a classic one and done. ** 2/5.