There's something endearingly quaint and old-fashioned about the new indie horror flick The Black Waters of Echo's Pond. There's also something painfully familiar and frequently amateurish about it as well, so those things sort of cancel one another out. But if you're interested in seeing (yet another) horror flick with a plot (and several actors) you've seen before, then I suppose this scrappy low-budgeter could work, provided you've a high tolerance for ripe performances, overlong (and over-lit) conversations, and (finally) a handful of creepy / gory / sloppy dispatches.
We open with a flashback that tells us the following: the Pagan god Pan resides within a recently-unearthed ... board game of some sort. The '20s-era flashback ends with a surprising bang, the opening credits unspool, and then ... tedium sets in. It's now modern day and we're along for the ride as a large group of (relative) youths head off to party at ... an unpleasant, isolated island shack. The goal is to "get away from it all," it seems, and so we're stuck with eight or ten constantly bickering boneheads who (get this) find the evil old board game ... and start playing.
OK, so maybe we're in for an indie-style horror take on Jumanji, which, given the proper ingredients, could certainly be amusing (especially given how I recently suffered through a similar plot in the tiresome Open Graves). Unfortunately, director Gabriel Bologna seems to think we want to spend the second half of Act I and pretty much all of Act II sitting in a living room as the argumentative weiners play an ancient board game that hews wildly close to the rules of "Truth or Dare." Speaking only as one frustrated viewer, I'd assert that Gabriel is mistaken.
But here's where the screenwriters exhibit a bit of dark creativity: Since we're dealing with the nasty deity known as Pan, his board game leads several of the players to unleash all sorts of bitter jealousies and pettiness on one another. Unfortunately the impact of these ideas is lessened (a whole lot) due to the flick's flabby mid-section and its unwillingness to trim down some of the more redundant arguments. The flick seems annoyingly obsessed with adultery, so much so that you'll want to hit the FF button every time you hear someone use the F-bomb and "husband/wife/boyfriend/girlfriend" in the same sentence. A few times I wanted to tap a character on the shoulder and ask them if they hadn't already covered the exact same argument twelve minutes earlier.
But just when the floridly titled The Black Waters of Echo's Pond seems almost irredeemably obsessed with non-stop board game "who effed who?!?!?" bickering ... the horror stuff shows up. Some of it is creepy, some of it is outrageously gory ... and some of it is plain old silly. But if I'm forced to choose between more of the living room stuff -- or a bunch of barely-related but juicy dispatches, heck, I'll take the latter every time. Here is where The Black Waters of Echo's Pond manages to find some footing, some intensity, and just a little bit of fun during its extended finale ... but you're asked to struggle through a lot of hot air to get there.
At the very least you'll have a good time pointing out familiar faces like James Duval, Mircea Monroe, Danielle Harris, and Robert Patrick -- although I must opine that whoever thought it was a great idea to give Elisa and Electra Avellan so much dialogue was drop-dead crazy. (You'll want to kill them both long before the villain tries to.) Probably best enjoyed with an inebriated group of genre-lovin' friends (as perhaps the first half of a double bill with something much better), The Black Waters of Echo's Pond is a weird, fairly sloppy mess of a low-budget genre flick ... but at least it gets good towards the end.