Friday, July 12, 2019

NYAFF ’19: The Pool

Before we see one second of visuals, this film assures us no animals were hurt during its production. That’s great, but most viewers will be more concerned about the humans. It predates Crawl, forcing humans and a particularly ornery crocodile into perilously close quarters. Truly, one darned thing after another befalls poor Day in Ping Lumpraploeng’s viciously clever The Pool, which screens during the 2019 New York Asian Film Festival.

After a hard day working on the set of a silly hipster commercial, Day relaxes in the pool where they were filming. Unfortunately, he falls asleep when the location manager starts draining the water. When he awakens, he can no longer reach the ladders to exit. Through an unfortunate set of circumstances, his girlfriend Koi dives in with him, bashing her head in the process. Now both are trapped in the dwindling water, out of reach of his trusty dog Lucky and his insulin shots above (yes, of course, Day is a diabetic).

By the way, due to recent flooding, a crocodile managed to escape from the local zoo, so you know what that means. It will be pretty obvious from the gory in media res opening. Man must play a savage game of cat and mouse with the crocodile to survive.

Granted, The Pool can be ridiculously contrived at times, but that is sort of the whole point of a film like this. Naturally, Day will always fall asleep at the worst possible moments, because that is how it goes. The important points are how cleverly his Olympic pool-sized prison is constructed and how dexterously Lumpraploeng maintains the tension in this ultra-claustrophobic setting. This is some remarkably skillful minimalist genre filmmaking.

Theeradej Wongpuapan makes a totally convincing Job-like figure as Day, while Ratnamon Ratchiratham is distressingly vulnerable as Koi. However, there is absolutely no question the big mean Croc steals the show. Lucky is also quite the likeable pooch, but this whole premise is sure to distress dog lovers (let’s just say The Pool is no Dog’s Way Home and leave it at that).

For the most part, The Pool is one set and four characters, including croc and dog, but all the elements work in concert quite devilishly. Recommended for fans of angry animal horror, The Pool screens this Sunday (7/14) as part of NYAFF ’19.