Anchor Bay // 2009 // 93 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Tom Becker (Retired) // September 20th, 2013
Where your deepest secrets are revealed.
In The Black Waters of Echo's Pond, a group of vacationers at one of those no-cell-reception islands happen upon a cursed board game. Not knowing that it's cursed, and barely knowing it's a board game -- electricity's out, you know -- they decide to play.
Despite the game's physical intricacies -- elaborate playing field that occasionally whirs and moves on its own, bronze chess-like pieces, iambic-pentameter challenge cards -- it's little more than Truth or Dare by way of Satan ("Dare or Die" by Milton "Mephistopheles" Bradley!).
Unfortunately, these wretches are the last people who should be playing Truth or Dare -- a less-confrontational tourney of Strip Uno would be a better fit. Everybody has some kind of secret or secret bitterness or secret angst or secret desire concerning one or more of the other revelers, and "the game" turns into a prolonged bitchfest. We get a long, long night of people arguing with and sniping at each other, revealing "secrets," and then hackery happens -- they might as well have called it Who's Afraid to Decapitate Virginia Woolf? There are plenty of acceptably gooey gore sequences, but having to sit through all the miasma to get to them is almost as punishing as a chainsaw to the gullet. The script, by director Gabriel Bologna, presents everyone so unpleasantly that when they start killing each other off, we're not unhappy to see them go. There are suggestions here and there that the partiers have been possessed by demons from the game, but it's only barely developed, and since they use their real-time squabbles as justification ("You kissed my girl!" SPLAT!), demon-possession seems the least of their problems.
Bologna -- whose parents, Renee Taylor and Joseph Bologna, wrote the classic '70s relationship comedies Lovers and Other Strangers and Made for Each Other -- directs a film of fits and spurts. It opens promisingly, with archaeologists in 1927 Turkey discovering the game and offering some mythological mumbo-jumbo about it; however, despite -- or because of -- a cool scene of carnage that follows this up, we're never sure how said game makes it the U.S. and the island retreat. After that, it's just down and dirty business as usual, with the whole business of the game just an ultimately insipid excuse to make everybody kill each other. Despite the comparatively lyrical title, this one's done in by a trite and draggy script.
The disc from Anchor Bay sports a decent-looking transfer; I'm guessing this is as good as it's going to get, given that the film takes place almost entirely in "the dark" (no electricity, 'member). The Dolby TrueHD audio is strong. The lone supplement is an alternate Opening Sequence, which, like the Opening Sequence that did make it into the film, is infinitely more interesting and promising than the rest of the film.
The Black Waters of Echo's Pond delivers the gore goods, but its talk -- talk -- TALK -- run-up wears thin and makes what should have been a fun slasher into something fetid.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* TrueHD 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 93 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Alternate Opening