Movie Information

Genre: Thriller
Director: John Polson
Starring: Jesse Bradford, Erika Christensen, Shiri Appleby, Clayne Crawford
Rated: PG-13

Connoiseurs of Bad Cinema will want to beat a path to this incredible high school knock-off of Fatal Attraction, a movie so awful that it’s little short of mesmerizing. It should be noted, though, that the trailer’s most notoriously funny line — “She’s not good enough for you, Ben!” — must have garnered too many laughs at test screenings and didn’t make it into the film as released. Here’s the idea: High school swimming jock (and former Troubled Youth) Ben Cronin (played by 23 year old Jesse Bradford) cheats on girlfriend Amy (played by 24 year old Shiri Appleby) with new girl at school Madison Bell (played by 20 year old Erika Christensen), little realizing that the girl with the phone company name is a card-carrying loon, who will soon be stalking him and ruining his life in a variety of improbably convoluted ways (thank God, he doesn’t have a pet rabbit). Absurd as this may sound on the surface, it’s actually a good deal worse — or better, depending on your fondness for the so-bad-it’s-good school of moviegoing. Why set this thing in a high school and cast it with actors who, by all rights, ought to have already graduated from college? Jesse Bradford — an apparent alumnus of the Corey Haim School of Mouth-Breather Acting (perhaps he just read the script and is standing there in slack-jaw wonderment?) who must have minored in Elvis lip-curling — boasts a five o’clock shadow that makes Richard Nixon appear to have been clean-shaven. His fellow high-schoolers look scarcely younger, making the film seem to be taking place in some educational facility for the terminally backward. Even assuming the viewer can make the leap required to accept these characters as teenagers isn’t going to help smooth over the outrageous and outrageously predictable plot. Screenwriters Charles Bohl (who hasn’t sold a screenplay to the movies in 15 years and it’s easy to see why) and Philip Schneider (who has no previous record of crimes against coherence) have slavishly followed the formula of Fatal Attraction, while making it at least twice as unbelievable and cheating us out of the anticipated cheesy final shock scene. At first, they seem to think they’re writing a romantic comedy with Ben and Madison “meeting cute” — not once, mind you, but twice. Madison can’t get into her locker, you see, so Ben picks the lock with her hair-clip, which she tells him to keep (it’s part of the mechanics of the plot). Next, he nearly runs over her with his truck, so naturally he gives her a ride. Soon enough, she’s got him cornered in the school swimming pool for a little chlorine-soaked action. He offers token resistance, but soon finds himself following her instructions to tell her he loves her (“You don’t have to mean it”). Of course, this one-shot dalliance causes her to become obsessed with ol’ Ben and she starts infiltrating every corner of his life and creating a relationship of her own imagining. Now, anyone who’s even come close to being stalked knows it ain’t fun and is downright creepy, which Swimfan might have been if it hadn’t opted to quickly become just plain silly. As soon as Ben makes it clear — for about the third time — that the two of them don’t have a relationship, Madison starts her reign of terror, sneaking into the hospital where he works after school as an orderly and mixing up his patients’ medicines to get him fired. Not satisfied with this, she charms one of his swimming buddies, Josh (played by yet another 24 year old, Clayne Crawford), into helping frame him for steroid use by somehow tainting his urine sample, thereby getting him thrown off the swim team. (Later on we find that Madison has a bottle of steroids tucked away, so presumably she had Josh substitute her sample.) By now, Madison’s ready to don Jason’s old hockey mask and go in for really hardcore mayhem and murder. All of this leads to a climax that has to be seen to be believed. Even with the “She’s not good enough for you, Ben” line removed (in its stead, we have the only marginally better, “She doesn’t love you like I do, Ben! Nobody could love you like I do!”), the big showdown is funnier than most comedies, with recourse to a plot device (remember the hair-clip!) that makes one wonder if Ben ever changes clothes, or merely assumes that his frequent plunges into the pool are an adequate substitute for personal hygiene. Tricked-out in annoying and pointless jump-cuts, Swimfan is also one of the worst looking movies in recent memory, being generally underexposed and murky-looking. Whether this is intended to make the film creepier, or is an expression of the ineptitude of the filmmakers, I don’t know. What I do know is that this is one bad movie.

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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One thought on “Swimfan

  1. Swimfan84

    Yes!! I’m actually watching this fine flick As We Speak, and found this review after Googling “Jesse Bradford mouth breather.” Really enjoyed the read. 4 stars.

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