The Pool (or De Poel, to use the title as it is displayed in its native tongue) is a psychological horror movie that alternates between moments of creepiness and occasional nastiness to make you wince. It doesn’t exactly shake up the genre, but instead relies on a solid cast of characters being put through the wringer while details are teased out for the benefit of viewers wondering just why everything is playing out the way it does.

Gijs Scholten van Aschat (who also co-wrote the movie) and Carine Crutzen play Lennaert and Sylke, a married couple who are on holiday with their two sons, Lennaert’s brother, Rob, and Rob’s daughter. Much to the displeasure of the younger members of the group, this particular holiday is a camping trip and the family soon cut their way through a barb-wire fence, eventually finding what they think is an ideal spot beside a small body of water. The spot is actually far from ideal, and it’s not long until the pool starts to influence the behaviour of some of the group members.

The feature debut for director Chris W. Mitchell (who has a number of shorts under his belt already, as well as some kudos for contributing to the script of Frankenstein’s Army), The Pool may be full of moments that horror fans will find familiar, but the execution of the material is so assured that any deja vu is forgivable. Well, that was my view. Others may not feel the same way. You get the strange visions in the night, that may or may not be dreams. You get characters wandering away from the main site only to become lost and end up back where they started. You get the minor incidents that add up to one big ball of tension, turning people on one another as nerves become frayed. But you also get two central performances from Van Aschat and Crutzen anchoring the whole thing, and you get plot developments that always seem to lead logically from everything that has come beforehand. Katja Herbers, Alex Hendricks, Jamie Grant, Bart Klever and Chris Peters make up the rest of the main supporting cast, and nobody puts in a bad performance. Which is why I felt they all deserved a mention.

Easy to dismiss if you think only of the separate moments culled from the recent history of horror movies, I would still urge viewers to give some time to this. It’s well under the 90-minute mark and the pacing ensures that it doesn’t drag, even during the many slow scenes (and this isn’t a film that rushes from scene to scene). It doesn’t quite add up to more than the sum of its parts, but it comes together to become something as paradoxically refreshing as it is derivative.

DIRECTOR: CHRIS W. MITCHELL
WRITER: CHRIS W. MITCHELL, GIJS SCHOLTEN VAN ASCHAT
STARS: KATJA HERBERS, ALEX HENDRICKX, GIJS SCHOLTEN VAN ASCHAT, JAMIE GRANT, CARINE CRUTZEN, BART KLEVER, CHRIS PETERS
RUNTIME: 76 MINS APPROX
COUNTRY: NETHERLANDS

Film Rating: ★★★½☆

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