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The Gratuitous B-Movie Column: Poolboy Nightmare

September 19, 2020 | Posted by Bryan Kristopowitz
Poolboy Nightmare

The Gratuitous B-Movie Column Issue #570: Poolboy Nightmare

Hello, everyone, and welcome once again to the internets movie review column that has no idea how much chlorine needs to go in the pool so perhaps you should just put it in (you don’t want me to mess it up, do you?), The Gratuitous B-Movie Column, and I am your host Bryan Kristopowitz. In this issue, issue number five hundred and seventy, I take a look at the low budget thriller Poolboy Nightmare, which recently aired on Labor Day night on the Lifetime channel and is currently available to rent on Amazon.

Poolboy Nightmare


Poolboy Nightmare, written and directed by the great Rolfe Kanefsky, is the first Lifetime movie that this column has ever reviewed. I’ve reviewed TV movies in the past, both old ones and newer ones (I used to enjoy reviewing as many Sci Fi Channel movies as I could watch), and there’s nothing wrong with TV movies, even ones from (gasp!) Lifetime. Lifetime, for years, has produced all sorts of low budget thrillers, both fiction and non-fiction/true crime type movies. Some of them are great, some of them are good, some of them are terrible, and some of them are so-so. You know, like “regular” movies that are released to movie theaters. Poolboy Nightmare, I can confidently say, is one of the great ones. It doesn’t do anything we haven’t seen before in the thriller genre, but director Kanefsky and company keep things moving and entertaining, which is what you want for any kind of movie.

Poolboy Nightmare stars Jessica Morris as Gale, a recently divorced single mother who has moved into a new house with her teen daughter Becca (Ellie Darcey-Alden). The house has big rooms, a nice pool in the backyard, and a sketchy history as the previous owner died in the bathroom. Now, the audience knows that that previous owner, Rhonda (Susan French), was actually murdered in the pool by a mysterious assailant and her body was staged as though she accidentally drowned in the tub in the bathroom. Gale doesn’t know this. One day, Gale unexpectedly finds a young man named Adam (Tanner Zagarino) cleaning her pool. Adam claims that he worked on the pool for the previous owner and he offers to continue cleaning her pool. Gale sort of agrees to Adam’s offer.

The next day, after an argument with Becca (they do this a lot) and a visit by her ex-husband Tony (Clark Moore) and his new, younger girlfriend Cindi (Valeria Gomez), Adam shows up at the house again to clean the pool, and Gale asks Adam to help her set up her TV. Adam agrees, goes up to Gale’s bedroom (because that’s where Gale’s TV is), sets up her TV, and they start flirting with one another. One thing leads to another, Adam offers to give Gale a massage, and soon after that they’re in bed together. Once the fun is over, Gale tells Adam that this was a one-time thing and that she has no time in her life to have a relationship with him (she also doesn’t want him to tell anyone what they did). To say that Adam doesn’t take this well would be a serious understatement. Adam leaves Gale’s house in a huff, goes home, exercises like a lunatic, and then we find out that he’s developed an obsession with Gale. He has surveillance pictures of her in his house. We also know that Adam is the one that killed Rhonda at the beginning of the movie.

So then some stuff happens, Adam goes back to Gale’s house to work on her pool again, and suddenly Becca, who is attracted to Adam in a big way, decides to make her move on him to show her interest. Adam responds positively to her advances, and suddenly they’re an item. Now, when Gale finds out that Adam has started going out with her daughter she’s extremely suspicious. Becca’s best friend Jackie (Cynthia Aileen Strahan) is also suspicious of Adam’s intentions. Jackie senses that there’s something seriously off about Adam. Why doesn’t he have a social media presence?

So then some more stuff happens, Gale goes to the police to find out more about Adam and what really happened in her house, and Becca and Adam grow closer. Of course, we know that Adam really isn’t interested in Becca at all and he’s basically using her to get to Gale. Gale tries to get Tony involved (will he protect his daughter from this obviously unbalanced guy?). Tony agrees to help out, but it doesn’t end well for him at all. That seems to happen a lot to people who cross paths with Adam.

So the rest of the movie involves Adam becoming more and more unhinged, Becca realizes that she’s made a tremendous mistake getting involved with Adam, and Gale has to figure out how to get herself and Becca away from Adam before he kills them. Because he will try to kill them if they don’t agree to his advances, especially Gale.


Now, again, the way Poolboy Nightmare plays out isn’t anything we haven’t seen before a million times. Once you know who everyone is you pretty much know how the movie is likely going to play out. There’s a chance there could be a twist ending of some sort, but it doesn’t necessarily need one. As long as the way it plays out is well done that’s what really matters. And director Kanefsky does an incredible job with all of the resources he has at it his disposal. Poolboy Nightmare moves quickly, swiftly, doesn’t waste a second. Kanefsky also infuses the movie with an impending sense of doom because, once we know who everyone is and know what’s going to happen, you find yourself waiting, on the edge of your seat, for the coming explosion. You know that Adam is going to snap at some point, in a big way, and that the people in his way are going to pay a heavy price. And you know that Gale is going to find herself up against the wall and she’s going to have to find a way to beat back Adam’s violence. How is she going to do it, though? That’s another way Kanefsky builds suspense.

Gale’s house, where most of the movie takes place, is a terrific set. The rooms are big but, also, claustrophobic in a way. There are plenty of places to run to in the house, but if someone decides to hide in one of those rooms how are they going to get out if they have to? The pool is also a great setting. It’s one of those in ground pools that’s also covered in multiple hard surfaces, like rocks and stones and whatnot. You don’t want to slip anywhere around this pool because you will hit your head and knock yourself out/give yourself a concussion/give yourself brain damage. The pool also has this weird darkish green/blue coloring that makes it seem like both a tropical getaway and a dangerous swamp that you don’t want to fall into.

The neighborhood around the main house is also a great setting because it doesn’t seem all that special. The neighborhood looks like it could be a neighborhood anywhere in the world. And yet, despite its non-specialness, it’s also one of the most dangerous places on the planet because the unhinged Adam is there, driving around, looking to make Gale his lover and potentially killing anyone that gets in his way. Look at that poor bastard Carlton (Luis Fernandez-Gil), an actual professional pool guy Gale calls later in the movie to work on her pool. Dude ends up getting killed because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. That sucks, man. That really sucks.

Kanefsky does an admirable job with the movie’s steamy sequences, making them seem hotter/more intense than they actually are. Since this is a basic cable movie you know there isn’t going to be nudity and it isn’t going to be as hot and heavy as an old late night Cinemax movie, but the movie’s “love” scenes do raise the temperature a bit. The bikini and swimsuit choices are quite exceptional. Could the movie have used more of Valeria Gomez lounging about and whatnot? Absolutely. But there probably wasn’t time for all of that.


The cast is amazing. Jessica Morris does a terrific job as Gale. She manages to balance Gale’s multiple issues: she’s a hardworking single Mom who just wants the best for her teen daughter, she wants to succeed at her job, she wants to have fun because why shouldn’t she be allowed to have some, and someone who realizes that she made a mistake and just wants to move on from it. You root for her to have fun, but you also hope that she figures out how to survive Adam’s psychotic advances. Morris shows that Gale, while dealing with so much, can handle herself and she can take on Adam if she needs to.

Ellie Darcey-Alden does a great job balancing Becca’s various issues. She’s in a weird head space, being in a new house, not having her parents together anymore, and trying to figure out what she wants out of life. It really looks like she hates her mother, but you know she doesn’t. She’s just trying to work out her problems. You do get annoyed with Becca, though, when she fails to take both her mother’s advice and Jackie’s advice when it comes to Adam. They both know he’s bad news, but Becca refuses to listen. What kind of spell does the guy have over her?

Tanner Zagarino does a fine job as Adam, his first major role in a movie. At first, he makes Adam a kind of lovable sort of meathead, but the more he interacts with both Gale and Becca the psycho layers start to show. Zagarino makes Adam the kind of guy who can go from smiling and laughing one minute to ripping your throat out the next and make it seem seamless. And the more and more unhinged he becomes the scarier he becomes. The guy is terrifying. The only thing this guy doesn’t do is run someone down with his truck, and I’d suspect that if Kanefsky had more money and time that definitely would have happened. The thing Adam does with the hot tub is pretty messed up.

Cynthia Aileen Strahan does a damn good job as Becca’s best friend Jackie. She’s funny, she’s quirky (you could probably do a whole movie about her working at the ice cream parlor), and she’s seriously concerned for her friend when she gets a weird feeling around Adam. Strahan works well with Darcey-Alden and you really think they’re best friends and have been for years. It’s a damn shame what happens to her. A damn shame.

I really liked Poolboy Nightmare. It’s solid entertainment. It’s well made, well cast, it moves quickly, it doesn’t waste time, and does exactly what you need a low budget, made for basic cable thriller to do. If you’re a fan of the low budget basic cable thriller genre be sure to track down and check out Poolboy Nightmare. See it on TV, see it on Amazon, see it when it (maybe) pops up on home video. It’s definitely worth your time.

And, with the way Poolboy Nightmare ends, I am very onboard for a sequel. We probably won’t get one, but I can hope for one, can’t? Of course I can. And when you see Poolboy Nightmare, you will likely want to see one, too.

See Poolboy Nightmare. See it, see it, see it.


So what do we have here?

Dead bodies: 2

Explosions: None.

Nudity?: None. It’s a basic cable TV movie.

Doobage: A swimming pool at night, phone hooey, night swimming, pool skimmer net to the head, attempted drowning, forehead cracking, fake bathtub suicide, a big house somewhere, a practically empty fridge, ice cream hooey, attempted TV installation, pool cleaning hooey, melted ice cream, off screen shower taking, friends doing lunch, sort of jealousy, talk about double standards in society, massage hooey, basic cable TV movie sex, after sex rejection, serious exercise, multiple surveillance pics, bikini hooey, lotion hooey, interrogation hooey, a carnival/amusement park date montage, more ice cream hooey, a mother/daughter blow up, strained friendship hooey, job hooey, a dead rat in the pool pump, a professional pool cleaner, pushing, leg breaking, off screen flower sending, gut punching, off screen flipping out, off screen self-beating, badly burned human skin, head smashing, body dragging, attempted bag packing, head hitting, creepy slow dancing, mild tape bondage, pool skimmer to the head, some cat and mouse, attempted electrocution threat, and the prospect of a sequel.

Kim Richards?: Attempted. Maybe. It depends on how you want to look at it.

Gratuitous: Sarah French, a missed call, ice cream parlor, a The Shining reference, a BMW, a The Graduate reference, a pic of the director on a phone (I think), lotion and sunblock, “My chariot awaits me lady,” a thumb drive, swimming, attempted male bullshit, creepy slow dancing, some cat and mouse, and the prospect of a sequel.

Best lines: “You need to stop calling me. I mean it,” “Is someone there?,” “Thank you! Scoop you later!,” “Becca, older guys are hot, but ancient guys are… eww, gross. No offense to your Mom,” “And Gale, I don’t think you’re going to be disappointed. I clean up nice,” “Your ice cream. It’s dripping,” “You are one popular lady!,” “This is Adam, the pool boy. Pool man. I’m twenty-five,” “Don’t be afraid to live. I’m not afraid. Good,” “Oh, boy, what did I do?,” “Need some help with that?,” “Some pools need a little extra attention,” “Hell, you’re looking nice today. Where are you going?,” “How’s the ice cream?,” “I’m not on social media. What are you, Amish?,” “Hey. How was the library?,” “I don’t know what her problem is. I mean, Adam is cool, right?,” “Are you trying to date her to make me jealous?,” “You take care of yourself, Gale. What is that supposed to mean?,” “Anyone you know lose a tooth?,” “You got a death wish, boy?,” “You need some serious help, son,” “Becca, this is all a lie,” “Hey, what’s up with this water?,” “This is why I can’t date younger girls!,” “Your Dad’s a loser and he got what he deserved!,” “Cup of chocolate mint? We’d be better off with a gun,” “Why hire the rest when you can get the best? That’s what I always say,” “Did you have sex with Adam? It was only once. It was a mistake,” “Adam. Where’s my daughter?,” “Rhonda was a disappointment,” “I am your future,” and “Very disappointing, Gale. Very disappointing.”

Rating: 8.5/10.0



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Things to Watch Out For


Becky: This is the much talked about low budget home invasion horror flick (or thriller, whatever you want to call it) that was a sort of big hit earlier this year. Lulu Wilson is the actual star of the movie, but most people seemed to talk about Kevin James as he’s the movie’s big deal villain. James, who is well known for his King of Queens sitcom and other comedies, plays against type and apparently kicks fucking ass. I didn’t see it, but it’s definitely something I want to see before the end of the year. It will be interesting to see if this movie leads to more villain roles for James. Anyone out there see Becky?


Robot Riot: This is some new low budget sci-fi action flick about soldiers who have to fight/deal with giant robots for some reason (something to do with a “test site” and “soldiers having their memories wiped”). The trailer is fantastic, and the robots look amazing. I’m going to assume that they’re mostly CGI, but for all I know the robots are a mix of CGI and practical effects/miniatures. I’m just shocked that the robots look as good as they do and seem to move smoothly. Weird movement is what tends to happen with these low budget sci-fi movies with giant robots in them. I would like to know why, though, the “human” parts of the trailer look like they cost considerably less than the robot animation. Definitely worth a rental just to see what’s really going on with it.


The Phantom: This is the fantastic action-adventure flick starring Billy Zane that came out back in 1996 (I saw it on the big screen that summer) and seriously bombed. It’s a shame that it did because Zane was great in the movie, the movie had an amazing cast (Kristy Swanson, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Treat Williams, James “Ganz, Albert Ganz” Remar, and Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa), and it had a fun energy, almost old timey in a way. This is the first time the movie has been on Blu-ray, which likely means that the movie hasn’t looked as good since it played in theaters. Hopefully this bare bones Blu-ray leads to a special edition/collector’s edition one of these days. Any other The Phantom fans out there?


Death Wish 3: The fine folks at Scorpion Releasing are behind this new Blu-ray that features a new transfer, a commentary track with Charles Bronson mega fan/expert/Bronson book author (Bronson’s Loose! and Bronson’s Loose Again!) Paul Talbot, and an interview with “The Giggler” hisself Kirk Taylor. It’s about damn time that someone put together a special edition of Death Wish 3 as it’s easily the most entertaining Death Wish flick of the five that were made and it definitely deserves that archival home video edition treatment. I was kind of hoping that Shout! Factory or maybe The Criterion Collection would do something with the movie, but for whatever reason they weren’t interested. Scorpion Releasing was. So if you’re a Death Wish 3 nerd be sure to pick this Blu-ray up. Go to Ronin Flix in North America and Diabolik DVD internationally to get it.


Next Issue: It’s the sci-fi action horror flick Attack of the Unknown featuring Richard Grieco, Tara Reid, and Robert LaSordo!


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Well, I think that’ll be about it for now. Don’t forget to sign up with disqus if you want to comment on this article and any other 411 article. You know you want to, so just go do it.

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Poolboy Nightmare

Jessica Morris– Gale
Tanner Zagarino– Adam
Ellie Darcey-Alden– Becca
Cynthia Aileen Strahan– Jackie
Clark Moore– Tony
Valeria Gomez– Cindi
Luis Fernandez-Gil– Carlton
Sarah French– Rhonda

(check out the rest of the cast here)

Directed by Rolfe Kanefsky
Screenplay by Rolfe Kanefsky

Distributed by Lifetime Television

Rated TV-14 for language, violence, and adult situations
Runtime– 86 minutes

Watch it here

All Poolboy Nightmare images courtesy of Lifetime Television