When I first heard the premise for Ernie Howard’s The Pool, I have to admit I was a little skeptical. It’s hard to imagine a spooky story set in any type of hostelry not being influenced in some way by The Shining. That said, I had read several shorts by Ernie previously, and was impressed enough to give him the benefit of the doubt and see what he could come up with.
The Pool sees a young family stop at a creepy motel in the middle of a road trip. It quickly becomes apparent that the father has piqued the interest of several dark forces occupying the ether and he must face not only these forces, but the truth about himself as he fights to save his family.
Howard manages to achieve a great deal with this ambitious tale, throwing off the shackles of King’s opus and while some of the themes may be similar, the execution is vastly different. Focusing instead on a more sentimental approach, we see the protagonist, Shawn struggle with his own demons, while others circle around him, some with good intentions, some not. As his experience intensifies, so does the tension, and this Twilight Zone-esque story begins to deliver much more than expected, with a finale that, even as a standalone would be satisfying, but as a series provides just the right amount of anticipation for the next episode. While Howard’s raw talent as a writer is very evident throughout, it’s also clear his skill as a storyteller has matured. I came into this story with preconceptions, but by the end, they had vanished completely, with this tale coming into its own. Rather than just being the sum of its parts, or a mishmash of classic tropes, The Pool manages to carve its own little niche into the genre, without appearing too derivative. Behind the macabre facade, and despite the sadness, there’s a lot of heart to this story, and it further strengthens Ernie Howard’s status as one of the most promising new writers on the indie scene.