DARK WATERS (1993)
posted 00/00/2011

Directed by:
Mariano Baino

Starring:
Louise Salter ... Elizabeth
Venera Simmons ... Sarah
Mariya Kapnist ... Mother Superior
Lubov Snegur ... Mother Superior's Assistant

Country: Russia, Italy, UK
Runtime: 94 min
Original title: Temnye vody
AKA: Dead Waters
   
       
   

When a filmmaker comments on how the horror industry has become a joke and he wants to change things and make horror films scary again you should be cautious. Italian director Mariano Baino certainly had his heart in the right place but crafting the next horror masterpiece is no easy task. The atmosphere, lighting and settings were excellent, and quite possibly flawless for this dark Lovecraftian film. Everything else was just sort of haphazardly tacked on in order to call this a horror movie.

It is said that much of what could be understood (of this movie) is up to interpretation. This movie has little dialogue, the characters are hollow and the story is foggy. I have read varying versions of the plot from different critics but here is what I surmised. Elizabeth’s father has just passed away. He religiously (pun intended) made donations to a secretive order of nuns residing on an island monastery. Her sister Theresa is a nun there and she gets killed because she starts snooping around and trying to unearth ancient secrets. So Ely takes a trip there to figure things out.

The quality of the atmosphere and mood is much like Mario Bava and Lucio Fulci films. The film was shot in the Ukraine and they take advantage of desolate rocky beaches, ruined stone structures, and creepy crypts. Nearly every scene is a dark and stormy night, the catacombs are littered with melting candles and everything has a grim, supernatural doom feeling. Unfortunately all this took me nowhere and I could not follow a character or be moved by a plot point. What we do know regarding what’s going on comes to us through a few key conversations between Elizabeth and another nun named Sarah.

Once Elizabeth arrives on the island she’s told she could be present during their ceremonies and bullshit activities. These nuns like midnight processions carrying burning crosses. There’s plenty of that. Then they have a blind painter who can tell the future through his art. He lives in a pit below the monastery. The main thing is the sea demon that the nuns have trapped. I guess they guard the barrier and break apart a scary seal into pieces. If you put all the pieces together the demon is released. You can’t tell at times if the nuns are good or not. Elizabeth’s history is tied to the island because she was born there. There’s more Lovecraftian story but it amounts to nothing but dust in the wind. We get a decent shocker ending but, I could have cared less.

If atmosphere alone can entertain you this is a sure bet. It’s a shame too because a lot of hard work went into the visuals. The theme was good and the core story had lots of potential if developed properly. I could watch this a second time to see if there was more content on a deeper level but I doubt that.

- Jorge Antonio Lopez

 

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