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Treading Water

The Barge People follows a group of friends who take a barge out for a good time, but come under attack from a pack of human/fish mutant hybrids hungry for human flesh.

The Barge People Review

Some films just try too hard to pay homage to films of old. The Barge People could be a good example of that, though saying that it was making such an honorable attempt may be giving it too much credit.

It's not that I need gore and guts to enjoy a horror movie, or even that this film necessarily needed that to thrive, but the constant non-violent violence felt like the slasher equivalent of treading water. I can't tell you how much of the runtime is devoted to "stabbing" (off-camera knife thrashing with blood splatter) and "biting" (bloody fish masks rubbing up against people), but it's an embarrassingly and annoyingly large amount...especially considering that nothing comes of it.

It's kind of hard to explain without seeing it in action, but the opening reveal of our fish people involves a lot of action with nothing actually happening. Everybody is doing the slasher/victim equivalent of running in place. A guy is bitten in the bathtub, while two more people are stabbing a fish mutant, while another girl is bitten in the bedroom...and while all this chaos sounds like it would be crazy horror fun, it feels like cinematic carousel of nothing. We're just going in circles and nothing is happening...except pointless screaming.

And the movie doesn't get better from there. The characters are unlikable (due to a perfect concoction of terrible acting and even worse writing), but you aren't satisfied by the fish people murdering them either because they are just as annoying, with their Power Rangers villain-esque shivering movements.

At times the film felt like it was trying to just recall to a more pure time of horror from the 60s-80s, then it felt like it was trying to be a pure monster movie, then it felt like it was trying to redux The Hills Have Eyes...But whether the fault lies on the film's attempts to achieve all of these things or whether it's due to a lack of skill to pull it off, the film falls flat on its face at every attempt. There is virtually no achievement.

I could tell from the get-go that the production wasn't going to have much value to it, with a weak score and poor acting...but I was desperately holding out hope that our fish mutants would save the day by destroying it in only the way mutant fish people know how. And while they attempt to commit mayhem, it just feels as surface-level as the rest of the film. They inevitably achieve nothing because they are as senseless as the script around them. In one scene they seem unphased by hundreds of stab wounds or a spear to the heart, but in the next scene, a shot glass to the head is enough to incapacitate them for minutes. Sometimes senselessness or the unexplained works in horror...other times it feels lazy, pointless, and aggravating. This is definitely an example of the latter.

Horror Rating System

Horror Qualifier: 9/10

Horror Quality: 4/10

Film Quality: 1/10

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