Channel 4’s Gareth Marenghi’s Dark Place was a brilliant one joke affair. Purportedly a TV show too shocking for the 80s, its writer, director and star, Gareth Marenghi (Matthew Holness) kept it in storage until the opportunity arose to present it to a potentially more appreciative audience. Each episode, bookended and interspersed with interviews with its creator, Dark Place skewered the tropes of horror, TV drama and the ego of a writer. Starring Richard Ayoade and Matt Berry, it was and still is an immensely funny show.
Poolboy: Drowning Out the Fury has more or less taken that exact idea, applied it to 90s straight-to-video action movies and then waited for the laughs to roll in. Well, it’s going to be waiting for quite some time. Poolboy is the clear cut example of a film that stretches the joke to breaking point. No, scratch that, it’s the cinematic equivalent of an old lady whose dog has died and she still insists on taking it for walks.
Poolboy: Drowning Out the Fury tells the tale of a Vietnam veteran (Kevin Sorbo) who returns to America to find his hometown infested by a gang of violent Mexican pool cleaners led by Danny Trejo. When his wife and child are killed by one of the gang, Sorbo sets out to avenge their deaths. Natch. Like the best spoofs, Sorbo and Trejo play everything completely straight. Even when Sorbo is haunted by images of his dead son being abused by Hitler, or dressing up as a clown to offer sexual favours to the police, he never lets on that this is anything more than a serious drama. That’s great. As is the deliberate poor editing, badly looped dialogue and cheap ass archive footage. It certainly evokes that period when films like Lifeforce and Commando reigned suprme. It’s just a shame the jokes don’t make it worth our time. It’s just all so soul-crushingly boring.
Intercut throughout the movie is an interview with the film’s supposed director Saint James St James, played by Ross Patterson (who also wrote the film). St James is a whirlwind of overconfidence, xenophobia and hyperbole who pops up every now and then to explain the reasoning behind certain directorial decisions. It’s like one of those in vision commentaries you get on blurays. St James interruptions are by far the most amusing aspect of Poolboy. Which isn’t saying much when they wear out their welcome 30 minutes in. These throwaways to the erstwhile director feel like the movie is trying to explain why the joke is funny. Which simply serves to highlight a lack of confidence from Patterson in his script.
This kind of spoof throwback has been done so much better. Particularly by Scott Sanders’ Black Dynamite and, more recently, Astron 6’s Father’s Day and Manborg. For all its ‘fury’ in the title, Poolboy comes across as a damp squib that does nothing more than highlight that maybe Jason Mewes, who also cameos in this, will do most things for money. Snootchie Bootchies.