Back in the 1980s filmmakers gave us every possible variation on the slasher theme – we had a run of such movies set in summer camps, in old schools, hospitals, even on deserted islands. Back then, a seafaring variant might have seemed like a good idea, but in 2011 it simply comes across as lazy and irrelevant.
The Watermen is a strange film. You can envisage the pitch meeting going something like: “Let’s have the guy who plays Jay in Jay and Silent Bob and stick him on a boat with a bunch of rich kids. Then we’ll have them menaced by incoherent fishermen with big boat hooks.”
Or perhaps not.
Maybe with a better script, some proper actors, and a little imagination, this might have made an entertaining, ironically-retro, slasher movie. Sadly, this isn’t the case, and what we get instead is a dull, derivative mess of a film that doesn’t know if it wants to be a serious by-the-numbers horror film or a silly, self-referential homage. Either way, it’s a particularly empty experience.
A group of generic Central Casting spoiled brats who call each other “dude” go out deep-sea fishing on a nice boat and run afoul of local fishermen – the Watermen of the title – who make a little bit of cash on the side in these recession-hit times by chopping up similarly boorish teens and selling them as fishing bait. There’s a vague nod towards social relevance when one of the characters goes into expositional mode and tells the audience that the local waters are deoxygenated and have very few fish, decimating the local economy as a result. Then the film goes into full-on horror cliché mode and all that’s forgotten in favour of portraying the fishermen as monstrous, shambling, semi-retarded rapists and killers.
The acting is terrible, the script and direction are inept, and the gore effects are some of the worst I’ve seen since the 1980s heyday of this kind of film. Characters act stupidly just so that another death scene can be wedged in; the Watermen, despite having done this countless times before, prove to be clumsy and inefficient abductors and killers; the guy with the muscles seems to be able to punch his way out of most situations and one of the other characters is capable of almost supernatural feats of strength and stamina while suffering from massive trauma and blood loss.
Even the killings are insipid – and surely the only reason to watch a film like this is to cheer on the grisly and inventive deaths of annoying characters? Somebody is burned to death, people have boat hooks rammed into them, and one girl has the silicon in her breast implants sliced out, accompanied by the line “They look great but taste like shit.” This kind of rubbish would test even the most fervent fan of slasher films. Perhaps everyone involved should have just gone fishing instead.
The entire movie is deeply unmemorable. Scenes wash over you as you sit and watch, the finale is forgotten seconds after the end credits begin to roll, and thankfully it all fades from memory as soon as the DVD is ejected from the machine.
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