The Drownsman (2014), directed by Chad Archibald. Bath time has never been so scary… or has it? Madison is suffering from acute hydrophobia after she almost drowned in a lake. Her crippling fear of water is joined by nightmares of a dark figure haunting her.
Maddie’s friends decide that they need to help her get over her unnatural fear of water, and instead of taking her to a psychiatrist, they take her to a giant tub and drop her in it. Unfortunately for them, this tub is haunted by the restless soul of The Drownsman, a serial killer that, you guessed it, used to drown his victims in his specially built tub of doom. They wake up the restless spirit of The Drownsman and soon find themselves dying off one by one as he seeks out new victims.
A serial killer named Sebastian Donner, who was dubbed The Drownsman by the media for his rather unusual habit of drowning young women in elaborate people-sized aquariums in his cellar, is overcome by a potential victim named Isabel. She rids the world of this menace… or so it would seem.
Years later, a girl named Madison drunkenly falls off a dock at a party into a cool mountain lake and wakes up suddenly in a grimy steel basin in the aquatic lair of Sebastian. He is now a freaky kelp haired monster who rises up out of puddles, and yes even spilled beverages, to pull ladies to their watery doom. Madison escapes his evil clutches with a paralyzing fear of water so intense she stays in when it rains and takes her liquids through a needle rather than face the threat of a glass half-full. Her friends stupidly organize a faux séance through New Age medium Catherine, which involves dunking poor Madison into a bathtub. It doesn’t go so well, and The Drownsman comes calling for Maddie’s friends and Catherine. They turn to survivor Isabel, who is confined to an insane asylum, because, reasons.
I’m all for the birth of a new horror icon. I grew up in the 1980’s alongside freshly born cinematic franchises built around mythic boogeymen who slashed and hacked their way into my heart, so I’m primed and ready for new blood to rise. Despite a great name, “The Drownsman” has some serious logistical issues to iron out before he takes his place with Krueger, Myers and the others. But there is promise floating in the sauce of mediocrity that bogs down this one.
Fun Fact: The Psychiatric facility that houses survivor Isabel is called Craven Hospital. We love you, Wes!
Borrowing liberally from plot points in “A Nightmare On Elm Street,” “Shocker” and even the J Lo thriller “The Cell,” “The Drownsman” doesn’t establish its own identity. The title monster is a glistening, rotted blank, virtually devoid of personality before and after death. The visual interest and makeup effects are there, but who is this guy? He can speak, though all he ever utters are creepy whispers of his victim’s names. There are attempts at setting rules for him, for instance, he doesn’t like fire much and when he emerges into our world, he cannot walk beyond a spill of water on the floor or the width of a puddle. But the most fundamental aspect of his origin story (which I won’t spoil here) is more of a head scratcher than a portent of doom.
The Drownsman shares similarities with the English mythological entity known as Jenny Greenteeth, a green woman, draped in seaweed with long unkempt hair that pulls people to their watery deaths. She may or may not be a fairy. Accounts vary on the subject.
\I realize drowning is sort of his thing, but after the first couple of bland deaths, my patience wore thin. There’s zero gore, no sex or nudity. Once trapped in the gray industrial lair of Mr. Donner, the ladies are treated to a pretty noncommittal villain. At one point he simply whips his hair back and forth like Willow Smith and girls fall into water-filled caskets.
He doesn’t WORK for a living, like Freddy or Jason. Those fabulous gents put their heart and soul into every kill. They’re dynamic. Sebastian is more like that dishrag you used to clean the oven. Sure, it’s all gross and stuff, but you’ll just throw it out and buy a clean one.
The film comes to a close with the nearest attempt to a twist as it gets, and I’m here to say that there’s hope for an improved sequel. In the meantime, if you want to catch a truly frightening flick about monsters emerging from water, you best lay your hands on “Ghost Shark.”
Other really well done water themed horror movies include “Dagon”, “Jaws”, “Below” and “The Bay”.