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By Brad Slager | February 6, 2004

There is plenty about this direct-to-disc title that comes off as inconsistent, starting right away with that title. “Devil’s Pond”? Some terms just don’t seem to carry off that sense of malevolence, and the word pond is among them. Try things like “Satan’s Dust Ruffle”, or “Tea Coozy from Hell”. See what I mean? Furthermore this title implies some connection with horror when in fact this is a rather basic thriller. Makes me wonder why they changed the name from “Heaven’s Pond”, unless they were worried people might get confused and expect the Fonda family to be in the cast.

Movies such as give me the feeling that I am not the only reviewer to carry a mental briefcase with a voluminous list of movie formulas that are instantly brought to light once they appear on screen in a particular film. In this case I happened upon at least three hackneyed conventions, the most glaring being the plot itself. Here we get treated to the familiar premise of the couple who by all evidence are happy right up to point that they get married, at which time one spouse becomes a psychotic loon, as seen previous in “Sleeping with the Enemy” and “Enough”. Sure, the idea of being trapped in a marriage with a certifiable maniac is intense–in theory– but it gets undone with only the barest inspection. At some point during the engagement there should have been some signal that would keep you from registering for the china pattern.

The other indication that this movie was about to go off the rails had to do with the cast and crew. There is all of four credited speaking parts, what with most of the film devoted to a couple on a remote location, yet there are no fewer than three producers, six exec-producers, and two more with AP credits listed. Anytime you get that kind of disparity between stars and money men you end up with the “Producer’s Stew” syndrome, i.e. too many minds spoiling the production.

What we get on screen is the marriage of two pretty people, former male model Kip Pardue, and former aspiring actress Tara Reid, and their secluded honeymoon as Mitch and Julianne. After giving away the ending—I mean showing some foreshadowing—the film opens with their wedding, at which Julianne bids farewell to her mother (Marideth Baxter in a brief and worthless cameo). In Mitch’s truck she asks him to get her the hell away from all of this and they later pull up to a lake with a cabin perched out on an island. Nothing spells romance as much as a beat up Ford pickup and a shack with no running water.

As the story slowly unfolds we come to learn that poor boy Mitch won the heart of the very rich daughter one day after his truck broke down and they met on the bus. (We aren’t allowed to ask what a debutante was doing riding public transportation). Julianne saw Mitch as a diversion away from her stifling life of luxury, and thus they married and agreed to a cabin retreat as opposed to, say a Caribbean suite with room service and clean sheets. However it does not take long for tension to enter the consummation fortnight, as the day finds the bride upset that their cell phones won’t work at the outpost locale. It turns out that talk about getting away was just that, as Jules and Mom are bonded by daily phone calls, but the failed phone service is just the first of many cliché’s allowing the tension to grow.

One main problem with this tale is that the three screen writers were all on the same page as far as the script was concerned, and all three agreed to make the same mistakes. By example is one scene where Julianne awakens in the morning to take her birth-control pill, then she walks to the waters edge and slowly walks into the lake. The music pulses dramatically before we see the next shot of her lying back down in bed. Huh? I had to turn to the commentary track for an explanation. Turns out she is scared of water, and this was some type of display of her empowerment. Meanwhile the writers explained how they fought to keep that vague scene in place while they trimmed another scene where Mitch surreptitiously got rid of her pills as the first sign of his obsessive behavior. They eliminated a revelatory shot while at the same time demanding the opaque actions remained.

By now the familiar plot of a spouse coming unraveled plays out, with Julianne stranded on the island by her fear of water and lack of a roaming phone contract. She comes to learn that Mitch had been a stalker for some time before orchestrating their introduction and now has her all to himself, and his smothering attitude has Julianne provoking him further to psychotic lengths. One way or another you know one of them is going home alone.

While not all together terrible there really is nothing compelling with “Devil’s Pond”. It all seems too familiar, it moves at a luxurious pace, and the actors have all the charisma of the tide changing. Tara Reid stands out in a notable non-performance that is a result of her lacking skill or not giving a damn, but either way she is a void. You would be better waiting for another title, like “Lucifer’s Rice Cake”.

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