Greek mythology doesn't account for the background of many horror films. There have been a few: Land of the Minotaur with Peter Cushing and Donald Pleasence, Hammer's The Gorgon, also starring Peter Cushing, along with his good friend Christopher Lee, Blood Tide with James Earl Jones and Jose Ferrer, a few others. It's a fertile ground for creepiness and malevolent gods, so one wonders why it isn't mined for material more. The producers of The Black Waters of Echo's Pond seem to have been wondering the same thing, basing its premise on a Jumanji like board game that communicates with Pan and other deities. Unfortunately, despite some good performances and exuberant effects, the film is only sporadically effective.
Anton (Arcadiy Golubovich) and his young wife Erica (Elise Avellan) invite a number of friends to spend a fun weekend partying on a remote island owned by Anton's family friend Pete (Robert Patrick). The audience knows that the island was the site of a horrific, demon inspired mass murder a long time ago, which horror was caused by an ancient board game that a group of archeologists reconstructed.
Josh (Nick Mennell) is Anton's best friend, and is also dating Erica's twin sister Renee (Electra Avellan). The group of young people all basically get along, except that no one but Anton likes Rick (James Duval). He's wealthy, kind of a jerk, and Kathy (Danielle Harris) particularly hates him as he was instrumental in her brother's drunk driving death. By chance, Anton finds the game secreted in a wall in the basement, and the group starts an uncomfortable session of gameplay. It's a typical game, with dice, moving pieces across a board, and cards that instruct players to do different things. But this game manipulates the players' secret fears, insecurities, and desires.
Soon enough, visions of betrayal, lust, and wickedness begin to enflame the group, and the murders begin shortly.
While The Black Waters of Echo's Pond has a lot going for it, there are also a number of flaws that take the viewer out of the mood just enough to doom the film to mediocrity. A lot of the performances are quite good. Danielle Harris is a seasoned pro at this type of thing, and easily turns in an organic, empathetic performance. The Avellan twins are clearly having fun, and Robert Patrick can do this kind of role in his sleep. Mircea Monroe is also able to handle the range of emotions necessary, hitting the ditzy blonde feel perfectly. However, in the lead role Arcadiy Golubovich is awkward and stilted. Since he's got to carry a lot of the film, this is a problem.
There are way too many characters to have to keep straight, even though are drawn well enough that we can generally tell them apart. This should have been a more intimate and focused tale. The story is far from original, hewing close to the "beautiful people in jeopardy" basics, and has few to no surprises. Some of the plot twists are hard to believe, and unworkable, at least when one thinks about them closely. While there are a number of creepy moments, no sense of dread or fear is ever really established, and many of the jump scares don't work. The score starts out decent, but toward the end becomes nothing but tension hooks.
The blood and gore effects, however, are quite nice, showing both enthusiasm and real skill. Even so, until we see a few bared bosoms after the halfway mark, the film has a very PG-13 feel, despite being rated R.
Overall, the film is a mixed bag of quality (the numerous fun performances, effects, etc.) and amateurishness (shopworn score, derivative script, a few poor performances), and ends up being just an average experience. There was so much potential in the Greek mythology that could have been exploited, but instead was left on the table. There's a lot to like here, just not enough to wholeheartedly recommend. Rent it.
The video is 1.78:1 widescreen, and actually looks quite good. The image is clear and sharp, and events can easily be seen even in shadowy or dark scenes.
Audio is Dolby TrueHD 5.1 channel, and also sounds good, but not exceptional. Not much is asked of it, but no hiss or other problem is audible. English and Spanish subtitles are included, but no alternate language track.
The only extra included is an alternate opening, clocking in at 2:36. This is a fairly interesting segment, with slight but meaningful variations on the opening as presented in the feature, but it's not very weighty, as far as extras go.
The Black Waters of Echo's Pond has some great source material to work with, a (mostly) good cast, nice special effects, and a fair share of enthusiasm. But these can't overcome the clunky plot, occasional stilted delivery, and general aimlessness. It's still worth a watch for horror fans, but don't expect to be overwhelmed.