When a film kicks off with a cold open of an injured man (Day, played by Theeradej Wongpuapen) groggily waking up in an empty swimming pool — six meters deep, with no ladder — being attacked by a huge crocodile, it has my attention. Thai survival horror/thriller The Pool is heavy on the suspense, if at times a bit light on logic and heavy on romance. It’s a blast, though, as sheer, edge-of-your-seat entertainment.
Day is part of the art crew on a film project using an otherwise-abandoned pool on the last day of shooting. Staying behind to clean up after everyone else has left, he takes some time to relax in the pool and falls asleep on a float. He wakes up to find that the pool has been draining, and that he cannot reach the edge to climb up.
This is the type of film in which if anything can go wrong, you had better believe it will, sometimes to the point of absurdity. For example, early on, Day finds himself having to decide between rescuing his strangling, leashed dog at one end of the pool or possibly allowing his vibrating cell phone — his only means of communication with the outside world — to fall into the water. His girlfriend Koy (played by Ratnamon Ratchiratham) shows up unexpectedly, only to have her head hit the high dive board and be knocked unconscious. “Nothing could be worse,” Day says about 23 minutes into the 90-minute feature, but then the crocodile shows up.
Ideas that seemed good at the time turn quickly into stupid decisions, sometimes with painful results. Near-superheroic feats of derring do sometimes border on the laughable, with moments that defy physics, biology, and logic. A good amount of willing suspension of disbelief is necessary when viewing The Pool, but if you buy into its wanting to merely be a white-knuckler crowd pleaser, a lot of fun is there to be had.
Screenwriter/director Ping Lumphapleng (alternately spelled Lumpraploeng) doesn’t take it easy on his protagonists, and viewers will feel like they have gone through the wringer here, with at least one jaw-dropping story decision that wouldn’t be found in most Hollywood films, regardless of genre. Lumphapleng is best known as a writer and helmer of comedies, but his first foray into fear fare shows that he has a way with suspense.
Quite a number of romantic scenes slow down the pace at times, though this approach was surely originally meant to heighten the drama and edge, at least to Thai audiences. Also, the film delivers an anti-abortion angle, which occurs on occasion in Thai genre films, such as the 2011 supernatural horror film The Unborn Child.
The crocodile scenes are highly effective, with some well-earned nailbiter moments and some jump scares, to boot. The animation and visual effects by Riff Studio and Alternate Studio are terrific. Director of Photography Prayuk Srithongkul does a wonderful job capturing the action, with some fine underwater camera work on display.
The Pool serves up an interesting Thai take on survival thrillers, with man versus both beast and the elements. Those viewers willing to let logic take a back seat for about 90 minutes, and who don’t mind a bit of lovey-dovey schmaltz with their action, should find the film to be a heck of a thrill ride.
The Pool is screening at the 2019 Brussels International Fantastic Film Festival, which runs April 9–21.
(3.5 / 5)
- Joseph Perry, The Pool