Written and directed by Ping Lumpraploeng, The Pool is a high concept survival horror film from Thailand – and one with a principal cast of just two people.
Day (Theeradej Wongpuapan) is working on the crew of a commercial shooting in a huge, abandoned, Olympic-sized pool. The shoot requires a canine star, so Day brings along his own dog, Lucky, in the hope of earning a bit of extra cash. Unfortunately for Day, once everyone has left, he falls asleep while relaxing in the pool, unaware that it is emptying. He wakes up later with the edge well out of reach and no ladder anywhere in sight. As Day’s afternoon goes from bad to worse, he realises his phone is up top, his dog is chained to a nearby railing and his girlfriend, Koi (Ratnamon Ratchiratham), also finds herself at the bottom of the pool. Oh, and all this is before an escaped crocodile wanders into the complex.
The Pool is a fantastic example of how to achieve a great deal, with very little. It’s proof positive that everything is secondary to great idea. It doesn’t matter how much money you throw at a movie or how many big names you have starring – ingenuity will win every time.
And The Pool is nothing if not ingenious, crafting tension out of utter simplicity and turning mundane items into razor sharp weapons of suspense. A prime example finds Day’s phone ringing and vibrating ever closer to the edge of the pool and a watery demise. With one simple every-day item and a shed load of consequence, Lumpraploeng torques up the anxiety so it is both morbidly hilarious and nail bitingly tense.
Day’s predicament escalates rapidly and with a succession of bad luck that would make a Final Destination movie blush. It’s safe to say that suspension of disbelief is required, because everything that can possibly go wrong, does go wrong. It’s a snowballing effect of disaster upon disaster that is simultaneously uncomfortable to watch and impossible to look away from.
Which leads us nicely to address some of the (unfair) criticism levelled at The Pool: that it is far-fetched and unrealistic. It’s fair to say that it is indeed both of those things, but it seems like complaining about a lack of realism is to miss the point entirely. I’m no herpetologist (person who studies reptiles; I looked it up) but I don’t think crocodiles constantly growl like tigers every time they open their mouths, and I’m pretty sure that, for the most part, they just loaf about rather than actively pursuing people to bite. So getting on board with the creative license is all a part of the fun. This is, after all, a film about a couple fighting a crocodile, not a Lars Von Trier movie. It’s a creature feature, not Dogme 95, so realism can get in the bin.
It’s not all as light as it sounds though. Despite some amusing moments and the absurd situation, The Pool is still a horror movie. It utilises the darker elements and story threads to good effect, with a smattering of blood and wince inducing pain for good measure.
The Pool‘s not perfect, of course. The pre-credits set up which establishes the danger from the start is unnecessary, as a slower reveal would be more satisfying. The CGI croc looks a bit dicey on more than one occasion and there is a scene late on that’s a pretty heavy misstep in terms of tone. But crucially, it can’t derail all the good work that has come before.
The Pool’s wild idea and deceptive simplicity ensures an exceedingly enjoyable 90 minutes. To put it plainly, if a movie about being trapped in a confined space with an angry crocodile sounds like your cup of tea, The Pool delivers.
SCREEN REALM SCORE: ★★★★✩
‘The Pool’ is now available to watch on horror streaming service Shudder in the US, Canada and UK.