Dark Waters

07/01/2019 06:23

Film: Dark Waters

Year: 1993

Director: Mariano Baino

Writer: Mariano Baino and Andy Bark

Starring: Louise Salter, Venera Simmons and Mariya Kapnist



This is a film I had never heard of until it being selected for The Podcast Under the Stairs’ Summer Challenge Series. It was in the running for 1993. I did briefly read the premise of the film and I was quite intrigued with what I read. I’ve now given it a rewatch as part of Italian horror month, as it was a co-production from there, as well as for my Traverse through the Threes.

Synopsis: a girl travels to an island, after the death of her father, to find out why he was funding a monastery located there.

We are in a convent where a priest, Valeriy Kopaev, is reading from a book. In it we see a disc with a monster’s face on it. There is a little girl, Tanya Dobrovolskaya, that has this disc. It is a large amulet. She gives it to a nun. There is then a moment where a door is hit by water and it knocks it down. We then see a woman with the amulet, but someone pushes her from a cliff. This causes it to shatter. The pieces are then put in different boxes and hidden in the catacombs under the monastery.

It then shifts 20 years into the future. Elizabeth (Louise Salter) is on a bus. There are odd people on it and she reads a letter from her friend Theresa (Anna Rose Phipps). She is in the same convent from the beginning and that is where Elizabeth is headed. During this bus ride she sees hooded figures with burning crosses walking in a procession.

There’s a storm that night and Theresa notices a crack in her wall. Behind it is a pathway into the catacombs. She goes down and finds one of the pieces of the amulet. She is then stabbed to death by a nun. We see the piece fall into the water and come to a stop on a crucifix with Jesus. We also see someone painting the scene on a wall as well.

This storm is raging and Elizabeth has trouble getting a boat to the island where the monastery is located. She does get a guy to take her there. Upon arriving she meets Mother Superior (Mariya Kapnist). She is taken to her room and informed that she can explore while trying to decide to continue to pay the tribute her father was paying. A nun, Sarah (Venera Simmons), will aid her during her investigation.

Elizabeth has nightmares of the catacombs and of what sounds like a monster that is being contained here. The more that she learns about this island and its convent, the more she learns about herself as well as the order that is living here. They’re harboring a dark secret and what she remembers isn’t exactly right. It is much worse when she finally learns the truth.

That is where I’ll leave my recap and introduction to the characters. What stood out to me most was how atmospheric this is. I was on board from the start with the location. This monastery looks like a castle keep and I love that as a setting. There is so much history there and the stone of the walls is quite unforgiving. Having a catacomb underneath it is great as it reminds me of ‘old dark house’ films. There is a combination of natural and manmade tunnels. There are a multitude of secrets hidden down there. I think that this helps develop some of the fear. It also makes me think that this monastery was built upon something that is much older than Christianity as well.

Something else that I’m all on board for is the corruption of religion. I love the idea that the nuns are doing the killings. At first, you think that they are villains, but the more you learn about them, the more you learn that they are trying to protect humanity from something worse. Elizabeth is there to discover what it is and the truth of it is Lovecraftian. I’m down with that as I love cosmic horror.

There is also the idea here of sins of the flesh. There’s talk of the monster, but what I like is that you don’t know if there is one. This could just be the corruption of these characters with the deeds they’re committing. To back this theory up, we see the nuns hitting themselves with switches much like St. Thomas More would do. The idea of self-flagellation intrigues me. This also has the concept of white eyes due to blindness. There’s a mural that is showcasing this and we see at least 2 characters that are blind. One of which is a painter that is treated as an oracle. This is explained that those that see the true evil are blinded by it and it is forever on their souls.

To go along with this, the pacing was spot on. We get introduced to the beginning of the story, but there’s enough mystery there. I was hooked as we get bits of information that connect everything. I feel that it explained all the questions that I had. I could have done without aspects of the ending, but I wouldn’t necessarily take them out. The only question I still had was where this island is located. I see this film was filmed in Ukraine, but it never official establishes that’s where this is taking place. I do know this is a co-production of Italy, United Kingdom, Ukraine and Russia, so I wouldn’t be shocked to know this taking place in Eastern Europe.

The next thing to move to would be the acting, which I thought was solid. Salter was good as the lead. She was believable in trying to piece together everything. I thought she was good looking. She also goes through things in remembering her past and how it is connected here. She is torn. Simmons was also sold in her role. I like her as a nun that doesn’t necessarily want to stay, but this is the life she is living. I did find her quite attractive as well. I thought the rest of the cast rounded out the film for what was needed, especially Kapnist as Mother Superior and the nuns. They’re violent at times which go against their principles and I’m down with it.

All that is left then is filmmaking. I’ll start here with the effects, there isn’t a whole lot, but what we get looks to be done practically. I thought the wounds and the blood looked real enough. Something that I liked as well was the look of the blind people. They have white eyes which reminded me of The Beyond. I dug what they did here. There are monster effects as well, which was fine. I had no issues there. The only other thing is the soundtrack. I thought it fit for what was needed in building the atmosphere. It is one that I would seek out to listen to while writing for sure.

In conclusion, this film does things that work for me. The setting, the story and the concepts that are explored are things I’m a big fan of. The corruption of religion and the sins of the flesh are two of these. There is a Lovecraftian element that also works for me. I’d say that this is well-made with special credit to the effects. The soundtrack also helps to build the creepy atmosphere. I think this is a bit of a hidden gem that is underseen. If what I said works for you, then give this a watch.


My Rating: 8 out of 10