Frustratingly clumsy chamber piece that attempts to infuse the heist gone wrong blueprint with Greek mythology and psychological horror.
A trio of art thieves, Eric, Matt, and Paul, rendezvous at an oceanside hideout after stealing a preposterously valuable painting. Eric and Paul are lovers and the intention is to link up with Paul’s mother, also implicated in the crime, and lay low until escaping on a boat.
However, their accomplice is missing, and they begin to experience disorientating group psychosis and disturbing hallucinations. When three young women wash up on the shore to further complicate matters paranoia and mistrust squeeze out a litany of secrets and lies.
Well shot, with strong performances, an atmospheric score from the seasoned composer Edward White, and monstrous sound design, The Waterhouse had all the ingredients to be a break-out Britflick hit. Unfortunately, the limited budget is not counteracted by originality and imagination stranding the film in a ponderous and insipid no man’s land.
White’s soundscape hums with a palpable dread that never materialises and builds to a crescendo of terror only to be met with anti-climactic scares and underwhelming shocks. The stunning location becomes humdrum due to obsessive drone shots and repetitive framing.
The characters are interestingly written with some spiky traits and morally dubious life choices. Yet, the lack of visual dynamism and creative verve robs them of tangible substance. Their interactions are so verbally exposition-heavy that even with the excuse of a meagre budget they are left flat and uninspiring.
Matt, the self-confessed ” Deepfake fucking Ninja” was responsible for the tech support on the theft. When asked to recount his actions, which to be fair the others would have been perfectly aware of as it was their plan too, he regales them, and us, with a frankly ludicrous tale of heroic endeavour and hacking genius. Think Simon Pegg in the Mission Impossible franchise.
The film clearly lacks the resources to depict these claims in any believable fashion, I understand that, but the flagrant over-ambition on display comes across as arch and flippant and teeters on the brink of insulting viewer intelligence.
Another notable instance comes when we see Pixie, one of the interloping women, asked to prove she is indeed a ‘Kung-Fu Mistress’ by demonstrating on shifty hardman Eric. Except bizarrely we don’t see it. Instead, the camera cuts jarringly away to an exterior shot of the house while we hear fighting sound effects only to cut back to Eric being pinned down. It’s a horribly wounding moment for the film as immersion and audience investment are cruelly sacrificed on the altar of unattainable coolness.
Sadly, these moments are about as isolated as the criminals’ ‘safehouse’ in the film’s unintentional quest to cut the audience adrift on the high seas of indifference. The Lighthouse type harnessing of classical mythology, the black and white flashback sequence surely a homage, is admirable but sketchy and ultimately as confusing as the random deposits of human offal that pop up sporadically.
Sure, there is a ship called The Argo in one background shot but Heracles’ young companion was lured to his doom by a completely different entity than the ones that lurk in the watery shadows here. It may well be an intentional bastardisation, but it’s also bloody befuddling for those looking to decode the movie’s internal mystery.
I’m all for existential shenanigans, hell, I would die on a hill for the near-unintelligible The Outwaters. But, it takes more than a teleporting bucket of swirling blood, Evil Dead fast-tracking shots, and a trancelike shuffle to the beach to discombobulate the modern horror hound. The crooks choosing the wrong place to hole up premise has been done to death, reanimated, and killed again. It needs some seriously messed-up psychodrama if it is to be mindfucked back to life once more.
As for the wet toilet roll-in-the-ears idea, that has to be the most ill-conceived survival technique ever to dodge the editing process. How blocking your hearing and then embarking on a rescue mission that solely involves shouting the name of your quarry in order to ascertain their location works needs explaining to me.
In contrast, the twist ending emanates from a pleasing, and relatively unusual, place. Unless you are an eminent art historian, you won’t see it coming and will feel gratifyingly conned in an eye-rolling kind of way.
There is a ton of talent and hard graft apparent in The Waterhouse, that is undeniable. However, the picture fails to pull it together in a cogent fashion, as a result, it is another limp and scareless entry in the ever-widening canon of the low-budget heist meets horror subgenre.
PSYCHOLOGICAL THRILLER | UK, 2023 | Cert. TBC | 84 mins | Take The Shot Films | Dir. Samuel Clemens | With: Alan Calton, Michelangelo Fortuzzi, Lara Lemon, Lily Catalifo