Water (2020)

“Uh, Mr. and Mrs. Yates? How do you like your hedges trimmed?”
“I don’t know. Darling, do you like your bush, square or round?”

—Mr. Yates multitasking ‘breakfast sex’ and getting rid of Daryl the groundkeeper

For most people residing in the wilds of Arizona (Pinnacle Peak outside of Phoenix/Mesa), when a mountain lion wakes them from a poolside nap . . . well, I know what “function” my body would do. Then there’s Phillip Penza. The beastly encounter inspired him to make a movie: he started to think about the “safety” of the pool; that jumping in the water—if the lion had charged, instead of running off—would have saved his life.

Now, as we’ve said many times before at B&S About Movies: when it comes to the low-budget films that cross our transom, it’s all about the cast that makes us hit that big red streaming button. And in this case, it wasn’t the ubiquitous Eric Roberts—it was Lorenzo Lamas, aka Reno Raines from our beloved 1992 to 1997 syndicated series Renegade (I never missed it!). Lamas currently resides in Arizona and previous worked on Penza’s debut film, My Name is Nobody (2014), along with the just-released (to Amazon Prime) vampire romp, Real Blood: The True Beginning. (Penza’s other films are 2016’s Movie Madness, and 2019’s Fire and Rain.)

We won’t sugar coat: the IMDb and Amazon streamingverse hasn’t been kind to Penza’s third (out of five) film. But again, like we always say here at B&S About Movies: you have to cut generous slack for the filmmakers and actors in the indieverse and view their films through a less judgmental set of eyes. Acting faux pas are par for the course. There’s going to be directorial, cinematography, and editorial stumbles. But there’s bad acting and filmmaking: then there’s filmmakers that are trying. And in the case of Phillip Penza and his crew and cast of unknown, Phoenix-based filmmakers, they’re pleasantly gallant in their efforts.

And Penza certainly knows his way around a script (the well-written line, noted above, spoken by Mr. Yates, himself a successful screenwriter, brought on a laugh-out loud moment). At first, it looks as if we have ourselves a low-budget desert noir of the old ‘90s USA Network variety (back when that channel produced original content before becoming an aftermarket shill for NBC-TV series), with the Yates—the home’s new residents—suffering a violent, home-invasions fate brought on by the home’s previous residents.

Then it veers off course.

When we meet Frank (Lorenzo Lamas), a well-off psychiatrist (They’re always more “defective” than their patients, aren’t they?) with a private, home-based practice inside his desert-mansion spread, he’s in the midst of a poolside tryst with his wife’s best friend—who’s returned early from a business trip. The ensuing knife fight results in Frank drowning his wife—and his lover urging him to “chop up the body and burn her in the outdoor fire pit.”

Yeah, Frankie knows how to pick ‘em. Good Headshinker. Good judge of character.

And Frank—who’s always in it for the nookie—does the deed. And guess who gets the next whack of the ax? Eh, you know how it is when your “disappeared” wife’s $11 million life insurance policy pays off—thanks to your buddy in the police department closing the case: there’s no sharesies for the side action in your life. Ah, but ol’ Frankie made one fatal mistake: he dumped his wife’s ashes in the pool. And she’s pissed off, rightfully so. Yep. This film noir just went supernatural on your ass with “killer water” spilling out of faucets and showers, less-than-forthcoming real estate agents, flickering lights, creaking chairs, missing Santeria priests, J-Horror Yūrei’s disappearing down sink drains, kids walking on water and talkin’ to disembodied playground swings—and one bitch-ass of a backyard pool (that dispatched Frank’s latest secretary-squeeze).

There’s been a lot of aquatic horror movies (we burned through some of that water-resume with our review of 2020’s Underwater); however, for the life of me, I can’t recall any films with “killer water” flowing through a home’s plumbing system. So, to that end: Phillip Penza certainly impressed me with a unique twist to the haunted house genre (which, again, I thought I was getting a neo-noir)—a house lost somewhere between Wes Craven’s “electrified spirit” serial killer romp, Shocker (1989) and the Bruce Dern-starring The Incredible Two-Headed Transplant (1971).

That latter film is recalled courtesy of Big Brody’s effective turn as Daryl Brown (also reminding of the late Michael Clarke Duncan of The Green Mile), the desert abode’s low intelligence-gentle giant that reminds of John Bloom’s heartfelt turn as Danny Norton in that early-70s AIP drive-in classic. But those are more than likely coincidental—and not direct, inspirational similarities—pulled from my personal, analog-film snob cortexes. But what we do get with Water is decent I-didn’t-think-this-was-going-this-way plot twists and a couple of eye-widening, noirish character-defective moments paired with atmospheric cinematography and genuinely creepy special effects.

In the end, the indie spirit of Phoenix, Arizona, is in Phillip Penza’s capable hands. So take a dip in his supernatural neo-noir, will ya? The water’s fine (sorry).

While you can watch Water ad-free on Amazon Prime for a very affordable price, it recently made its debut as a free-with-ads stream on TubiTv. You can learn more about Phillip Penza’s works at the official website and Facebook page of Little Book Films. Penza also discusses the making and release of Water in a radio interview posted on You Tube.

Oh, and speaking of Eric Roberts (The Arrangement and Lone Star Deception): there he is, again! The master thespian co-stars in Phillip Penza’s webseries Scrutiny, now streaming on Amazon Prime Video and Vimeo on Demand.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies and publishes on Medium.

Disclaimer: We were not provided a screener nor received a review request from the filmmakers or their P.R firm. We discovered this film on our own and genuinely enjoyed movie.

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