The graduates of Valley Hills High School hit the Wet Valley Water Park for an end of school celebration consisting of the usual sex, drugs and rock and roll – well, not quite rock and roll, there’s an 80s cover band there who don’t seem to cover 80s tracks. Or cover anything, for that matter.
Anyway, what our happy band of teens don’t know is that a black-gloved killer has already bumped off an unsuspecting couple prior to their arrival and, for an encore, is about to make lethal alterations to the water slides.
Writer/director Renaud Gauthier previously gave us the utterly bonkers, not to mention highly entertaining, Discopath so I ignored those poolside warnings and dived happily into Aquaslash hoping to catch another stylish, taste-free wave of gore. Unfortunately, I was not swept along and was ultimately left thinking how this could have ended up being too shallow even for a connoisseur of celluloid dregs such as myself.
I’m not going to pretend Discopath had the deepest of plots but the premise of Aquaslash is so insipid that it takes the most leisurely of paddles even to its modest 71-minute running time.
The idea of sabotaging a water park with razor sharp obstacles is, admittedly, a joyously sick one but the problem is that once some poor unfortunates have gone down there, been chopped into bits and someone at the other end notices, not many more folks are going to be queueing up to try the attraction for themselves.
So Aquaslash has to build to that crescendo of gruesome violence by setting up the characters as suspects in a classic “whodunit?” – or “who did it and who’s about to do it again?” scenario. Only, there’s not really much in the way of clues, or collateral carnage either, leaving a bunch of not-especially interesting, oversexed students and the generally unhappy folks who work at the water park.
There’s a lot of drug taking. There’s a fair bit of infidelity. There’s a weird employee. There’s an angry ex-employee. There’s our default hero, whose dad owns the place. I say “default hero” because for the most part, he doesn’t do anything remotely heroic. Sleeping with the hot girl definitely does not count. Having various folks behave in annoying or even reprehensible ways doesn’t necessarily make them a killer and the script doesn’t make an effort to include any red herrings, it’s just a question of “this person is dodgy, but are they dodgy enough to kill?”.
Whereas Discopath wore its eagerness to offend on its sleeve and largely got away with it because it was wrapped up in such an engrossingly bizarre tale, Aquaslash is far too coy in both the sex and violence departments. Yes, there’s nudity but it’s all far too tastefully shot to be in a movie with this title.
The splash of gore is reasonably decent, if far from convincing, but it all comes too late, leaving the viewer to wade through nigh on an hour of low-wattage shindig shenanigans, tedious love triangles and jokes that don’t make much of a splash.
In general, the performances don’t fully engage either. Nicolas Fontaine, as hero Josh, is fine but he doesn’t give us a lead to particularly root for, even when he’s up against the biggest douchebag in the film, giving it the most douchebaggery he can muster. Brittany Drisdelle fares better as Priscilla, who’s looking out for the kids in all sorts of ways while giving the cold shoulder to her lecherous husband, and Madeline Harvey gives the film the energetic boost it so desperately needs as the hard-partying Alice.
The remainder of the cast is a tad bland. Josh’s friend Chad is constantly referred to by the wrong name and it’s not much of a surprise considering the role is such an unmemorable one. It’s not that Cameron Geller is a bad actor; it’s just that he’s given so little to do I had as much trouble as his castmates when it came to recalling who he was.
Elsewhere, the character of Big Phil is introduced as the school bully when he pushes around Josh and his band but he doesn’t cast any kind of shadow over the rest of the proceedings and almost fades from the plot completely until the final fifteen minutes – and even then he has very little impact on what happens next.
Billed as having “thrills, chills and screwball comedy”, I searched for all of these and, I have to say, I’m still searching after a second watch. The potential thrills of the climax are dissipated by the fact that it just takes so bloody long to get there, the flat kill sequences rob the piece of any chills and what comedy there is never rises above crotch level.
If Aquaslash had been a balls to the wall, unapologetic exercise in splattery bad taste, I get the feeling I would have loved it. As it is, it’s far too restrained and unfocused to work as a horror comedy and it’s never remotely as trashy as it often threatens to be. Tossing in the most perfunctory of murder mysteries doesn’t help it one little bit either.
I can’t quite get over how disappointed I am. I should be hailing this as the latest film to see if you love exploitation cinema, instead I’m telling you to swim in the opposite direction, as fast as your little arms and legs will thrash. Still, there’s always Discopath.