A comedy/horror set in a graduation party at a water park, which is not funny, scary, exciting, interesting, or even a slasher. Watch something else.
Great, I thought: after reviewing a few artsy or heavy films lately, I get the chance to see some airhead teens in bikinis being killed off by a sunshine-fuelled slasher. Unfortunately, Aquaslash let me down on several counts.
The newly graduated students of Valley Hills High School have all come to “Wet Valley” water park to celebrate with an eighties disco and races down the three water slides the next day. They neither know nor care about a death that took place there thirty-five years earlier, nor that there is tension between the staff at the water park about each other and about its ongoing ownership. None of them – visitors nor staff – know that one of the slides has been tampered with: two blades have been inserted, so that no-one traveling down can avoid them.
Sounds like a nice enough set-up for a throwback cheesy slasher, doesn’t it? But apart from one brief introductory killing, Aquaslash is more like a dull teen soap for the first half. Someone fancies the bully’s girlfriend; someone else takes exception to the music; couples sneak off for secret sex; the girls in one room are into cocaine; and others – for some reason – enjoy a wet t-shirt car wash. The film “stars” Nicolas Fontaine, Brittany Drisdelle, Lanisa Dawn, Nick Walker, but don’t ask me who does what: none of them had personalities and most were virtually interchangeable in terms of appearance. By the time several teams were forming to go down the water slides, I didn’t care who chose which one; and when some of them emerged in pieces, I could hardly tell who was left.
At first glance, Aquaslash seems to have the potential to parody other gory films, or maybe satirize the leisure industry. But writer/director Renaud Gauthier (I’m almost too embarrassed for him to give his name) uses tropes – “it’s happening again!” – and standard characters as building blocks, rather than applying any kind of wit. For something billed as “comedy”, there is a remarkable lack of humor too, not even any slapstick or ***** jokes (just one or two insults).
The only comedy perhaps is how inescapable and thorough the death trap is, when it finally snares people. Bodies are severed cleanly into varied pieces by the blades, and the water below steadily reddens. There is some truly tense anticipation when we see the young people gathering at the top of the slides and shuffling into teams because we know what they’re about to face – and we also don’t know who put the blades there – and a bit more tension when someone who had previously only been shown in a bad light tries to stop the race. But it has taken so long to get to this point that my reaction was more “at last!” than “don’t do it!”.
Even the resolution to the “mystery” of how the trap was set and why is poor. A sneaky smile and a couple of references to earlier scenes do not make any kind of explanation. Adding an extra, equally ineffective, sight gag after the closing credits did nothing to help the ending either.
Most “traditional” slasher films have a central baddie stalking a group or individual, gradually getting closer, via a series of assaults and/or murders along the way. There’s nothing wrong with breaking that familiar mold, but in giving Aquaslash just one (albeit major) set-piece, there was not enough to build up to the slaughter.
Granted, when it happens, this scene with the water slides is impressive. It is neatly written so that we cannot tell which slide has been messed with and who’s going to face it; and when they get to it, their faces and the slow-motion dismemberment are priceless. So I’m not going to say Aquaslash has no good points at all, just nowhere near enough of them. At least the film is short.
If you want to see a film with wit, gore and bikinis, I’d recommend watching Alexandre Aja’s Piranha 3D instead.
Alix has been writing for Ready Steady Cut since November 2017. They cover a wide variety, including genre festivals, and especially appreciates wit and representation on screen.