THE POOL **** Thailand 2018 Dir: Ping Lumpraploeng. 91 mins
A dynamic, stripped-down survivalist / nature-on-the-rampage flick in which hunky, diabetic commercial art director Day (Theeradej Wongpuapan) is supervising the clean-up of a six-meter-deep pool after an underwater shoot. Failing to notice the newspaper headlines of a local flooding crisis and an escaped resident from a nearby crocodile farm, he falls asleep on an inflatable raft and wakes up to find the water level has dropped to the point where he can’t get out. Plus, he has an unexpected guest. What follows is a hyper-intense, superbly directed escalating Series of Unfortunate Events that would make a great double bill with last year’s thematically similar CRAWL. Working on the basis of “what can go wrong…does”, it unfolds a succession of sweat-inducing perils and dilemmas: mobile phone out of reach, rainstorm, dog-in-peril, Day’s sweet-but-demanding girlfriend Koi (Ratnamon Ratchiratham) showing up for an ill-advised dive, etc. Likeably essaying a hero who is self-conscious about being a penniless artist and afraid of commitment, Day is worth rooting for, and writer-director Ping Lumpraploeng puts him through the ringer: few will fail to wince at the personal injuries he sustains, including a harrowing bit involving a snapped fingernail. While he employs survivalist tips learned from Tom Hanks in CASTAWAY, there’s a winning streak of gallows humour at the heart of the movie’s excruciating escape attempts, hollow triumphs and various brutal confrontations with the (superbly realised) crocodile. The script is outrageously contrived and the slo-mo drama corny – but it is dedicated to pure entertainment, not reality, and signals its own keen sense of self-mockery via the character journey of Day’s beloved canine pal Lucky. Capped by a thrilling, borderline-insane, frenetic finale, this would make an awesome packed-theatre midnight movie experience…but even watched alone at home is thrilling enough to be crowned (wait for it) : Greatest Killer Croc Movie of All Time. You heard it here first.
Review by Steven West