Fantasia 2014: The Drownsman
The Drownsman stars Michelle Mylett as Madison, a young woman we know absolutely nothing about. Madison’s best friend Hannah (Caroline Korycki) just got engaged, and after accepting Hannah’s request to be maid of honour, Madison nearly drowns in an accident. Madison had a vision of a hulking, demonic-looking person locking her in a basement while drowning, and the hallucination now makes her deathly afraid of water. Director Chad Archibald establishes the severity of Madison’s fear by showing her cowering in her bedroom, sobbing because it’s raining outside. I wondered why Madison wasn’t afraid of crying, considering she’s covering herself in tears. I also wondered if Madison freaks out on a particularly humid day in case she starts sweating. Then I realized I was putting more thought into this movie than the writers ever did.
Unfortunately that rainy day also happened to be the day of Hannah’s wedding, and Hannah, now losing patience with her best friend’s behaviour, takes action. Hannah grabs two of Madison’s close friends (Gemma Bird Matheson & Sydney Kondruss) and a spiritual type (Clare Bastable) to contact the spirit haunting Madison and get it to leave. The whole thing is a hoax, though; Hannah’s doing it as a trick to convince Madison to get over her fear. Yet oddly enough this fake ceremony somehow does contact the evil spirit, the ghost of a serial killer whose MO was drowning women, and one by one everyone around Madison gets picked off by the titular villain.
The Drownsman can only travel through water, as it acts like a gateway to his “realm” (the shoddy basement in Madison’s vision) where he proceeds to drown his victims. Like everything else in the film, this brings up a lot of questions. Why does the Drownsman have to kill people in his basement? He can clearly exist in our world, as shown by how he appears in puddles or any pool of water, yet he continues to drag people kicking and screaming into his weird, undefined alternate dimension. Wouldn’t it be more efficient to drown them in the water he uses to travel to our world? And why, as we learn toward the climax of the film, does the Drownsman have a fear of fire? If someone tried to light him on fire, couldn’t he just use the water surrounding him to put it out? He wouldn’t even have to roll, just stop and drop.
I finished The Drownsman with plenty more questions, but sadly I don’t think I’ll ever get any answers. Some of the more basic questions are easy to figure out. This is a low budget, presumably straight to DVD horror film, so the awful acting, terrible dialogue and shoddy direction are all easy to understand. They’re expected to some degree. How a film with such a stupid premise made it past the development phase is something I can’t really figure out. I may have hated The Drownsman, but it’s not completely worthless. Whether it’s intentional or not, the scenes of characters flinching at the presence of water makes for some of the year’s funniest moments. I’ll give The Drownsman credit: it’s the only film I’ve seen where people cower in fear as someone next to them drinks from a bottle of water. There’s something of value there, even if I can’t figure out what it is exactly.