Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Swimming Pool – Der Tod feiert mit (Europe, 2001)

(Spoilers — but who cares?) So, is this a movie or limburger cheese? God knows it really stinks.
Okay, I admit that there was only one reason I rented this flick. Some years ago I got pulled in for a day to help a subcontractor of a subcontractor of a subcontractor who was translating a German-language film script into English. The film was to be shot is Prague with an international cast and crew, the only common language possibly being English, so the film script, though of a German production, had to be supplied in English. The script was lousy, a mixture of scenes already done a hundred times in numerous other horror films, and featured interchangeable characters and unimaginably idiotic dialogue. As generally happens with truly terrible scripts, it went on to be made, and this film is the final product.
Well, even as we worked on it we gagged when we didn't laugh, and the additional changes that were made after us were no improvement. Boris von Sychowski, who co-wrote the script with Lorenz Stassen (although at the time we saw it, von Sychowski was the only credited writer), also makes his directorial debut with Swimming Pool, and, in truth, one hopes that he never makes another horror film, for this one really sucks. Although its first scene is indeed taken directly from Scream (1996) — a highly intellectual and artistically expressive homage to its source material (not) — the movie is less another Scream-wannabe than a bore, a retread of everything that was bad in both the original slasher era and the Scream-inspired revival that continues to survive like penicillin-resistant gonorrhea. With the exception of one scene, the entire movie so thoroughly sucks donkey dicks that it is impossible to even find its overall ineptitude funny, as one does with such earlier but similar German exercises of hack sensibility like Flitterwochen in die Hölle (1960).
Like so many other a brainless body count turd that has landed on the shelf of your local video store as of late, Swimming Pool is meant to be watched with your finger on fast forward. With the exception of two victims, Kim (Isla Fisher) and Diego (Maximilian Grill), there is no noticeable differentiation of characters. They are given names — which are quickly forgotten — but little more, and are so interchangeable that it is easy to lose track of who is dead and who is not; all the more so since some characters simply disappear and reappear as if the director momentarily forgot that they are a part of the film. It doesn't help much that that von Sychowski's grasp of direction is as minimal as his film is predictable. This is the type of movie that encourages you to improve your verbal social skills, cause if you watch it with friends you'll probably fall asleep if you don't start a conversation… Hell, the tit count is so low that there isn't even a sleaze factor to help keep you awake.
True, there is one truly spectacular and misogynistic kill that gets everyone reaching for their groin as they scream with laughter. Probably inspired by the infamous scene in Evil Dead (1983) — in which a woman gets it between the legs with the root of a raping tree — or Evil Dead II (1987) — in which a woman gets split in two from the crotch upwards (off screen) when pulled against a tree by demon vines — in Swimming Pool, one young faceless twenty-something speeding unstoppably down a long waterslide meets her end with a machete between the legs when she slides into the steel blade stuck through the bottom of the slide. But, in truth, the idea itself is so strong in itself that even Uli Lommel probably couldn't have filmed it badly.
The best things about Swimming Pool, aside from this singular scene and the fact that the film does eventually end, are the numerous postcard panoramas of the great city it is filmed in. Prague has so much more beauty and character than anyone involved in the movie that it would have only been beneficial to the film had they skipped all the deaths and simply shown the city. But no, von Sychowski had to actually try and make a horror film instead of a travelogue — his mistake, our pain.
The "story" involves a bunch of rich, supposedly sexy and en-mass dislikable and faceless twenty-somethings graduating from some international school in Prague. (The school seems to be a high-class version of a private high school but everyone going there seems old enough to be graduating from college. But then, seeing that all the would-be victims only drink Beck's or Heineken when they live in a city in which any given homebrew tastes miles better than the popular German and Dutch beers, it is easy to write everyone off as a bit simple. This, in turn, would explain most of their actions later on when they are confronted by their violently diminishing numbers.) Rather than celebrate the big event alongside all their classmates at the official graduation event, Greg (Thorsten Grasshoff) organizes an illegal party in a huge water recreational center complete with slide, weight room, swimming pool, bar, changing rooms and a lot of corridors through which the heroine can later run. About twelve of his interchangeable friends take part in the event, but the only ones of any importance are Sarah (Kirsten Miller, who had an itsy-bitsy part in the much better thriller Cherry Falls (2000)) and Carmen (Elena Uhlig). In no time short, they are locked in and the body count grows as the machete-wielding killer goes to work. (Dunno, but in every film in which a group of people get locked in some public space, doesn't it seem odd that no one ever thinks of lighting a match to the water sprinkler?) The killer is partial to what seems to be a black motorcycle outfit and a ridiculous skull mask probably bought from at a Sido concert (if you don't know who he is, you really aren't missing anything). There is also some sub-plot about a cop that, much like the caretaker in The Shining (1980), dies the minute he finally shows up at the scene of the crime. The big scene in which the killer reveals his true self and his reasons is, to put it simply, hilariously badly written and inane, but at least someone in the film tries to act for a few seconds. Of course, you know the ending. Splish! Splash! Slash! Bang! Bad guy dead, good girl and guy alive, thrown popcorn all over the living-room floor.
Regrettably, the killer takes his time throughout the whole film, which results in a clocking time of a full 89 unexciting minutes. Swimming Pool might be more fun than a machete splitting your crotch, but not much more. Avoid at all costs.


Anonymous said...

This movie is worth watching just beacuse of Carmen, who is honestly a very unexpected bitchy antihero

Abraham said...

You're right about that — she (Elena Uhlig) is the best thing in the movie, though now after all these years it is also sort of fun to see a young James McAvoy paying his dues...