Romantic creature feature from Thailand, with plenty of surprises despite its simple premise.
Ping Lumpraploeng’s The Pool has a very simple premise: a couple (young and beautiful, of course) find themselves unable to get out of an abandoned swimming pool and in the company of a large crocodile. So I went in thinking this could be great: a limited cast and situation can make for an inventive story. I had questions too: why was the pool abandoned, why are two people stuck there, and of course why is there a crocodile? Only the second of those is properly covered (the others just slightly), but once the story gets going, I didn’t care at all: it was fabulous.
Day (Theeradej Wongpuapan) looks after art and dog training (yes) for a TV commercial company and stays behind to clear up after a shoot is done. He adds some leisure to his chore and unfortunately dozes off floating in the pool while the water is draining away. His girlfriend Koy (Ratnamon Ratchiratham) is clueless when she jumps in to join him… But hey, at least they are together when a crocodile turns up!
The Pool was funny, entertaining and exciting. Day and Koy sometimes acted cleverly, sometimes made stupid decisions, just as we might expect from a survival film. I confess I audibly called out “no!” at the screen when I could see what was about to happen. There are injuries, hunger, and endurance to contend with, as well as some near misses and almost rescues. There are some far-fetched coincidences and surprises, of course, which can add to the fun in any adventure film; but by and large, it was not too predictable. Perhaps this was helped by the rarity of this kind of film from Thailand.
You see I’ve been reliably informed that although monster movies are widespread in Far East Asia, “creature features” (i.e. films with real predatory animals) are rare. Consequently, it was very satisfying to see that The Pool was not simply a Thai version of a Western film (it was thoroughly different to Crawl, for example), but their own story which was applied well to their own culture. For example, the sweet romantic plot strand that is so often a part of Thai films was an integral part of The Pool‘s storyline; and the regional approach to marriage provided some of the characters’ motivation.
There were one or two elements to the story which I must say didn’t sit comfortably with much of the British audience I was part of; I’m not going to say what for the sake of avoiding plot spoilers. This was the UK premiere at Mayhem Film Festival, Nottingham, who aren’t averse to a little controversy, in the name of good quality cinema. But I guess The Pool may not have seemed controversial in its home market: if it had, it may not have received the sponsorship it did from Pizza Hut! This is one thing we’re really not used to here: there are a couple of scenes which actually felt like advertisements for the pizza restaurant, such as Koy daydreaming about the dates they used to talk about. It must have worked too: even though Pizza Hut didn’t demonstrate good customer service in the film, many of us talked about craving pizza after it was finished.