Saturday, October 13, 2007
#23: Dead Waters (Mariano Baino, 1994)
As any fellow raised-as-Catholics know, nuns are scary. Not all nuns fit the stereotype, but most of the nuns I encountered as a child were wrinkled-up, angry, frightening witches, fond of whacking people with rulers and explaining how everything we liked would make us bosom pals with Satan. Aside from the boredom of church services, I think the exposure to nuns every summer for intensive two-week catechism cemented my failure to connect with organized religion. After all, if devotion to the church had done nothing but turn these crones into freaky, grumpy bitches, then church must not be so hot. I'll stick with my rock and roll and comic books, thanks. Rock and roll never made anybody whack anybody else with rulers (unless they wanted to whack and be whacked).
Dead Waters makes a spooky convent of creepy nuns in Ukraine the centerpiece of the horror, which I wholeheartedly endorse. A London woman has inherited her dead father's fortune, but a clause in the will stipulates a monthly payment to the freaky Ukrainian convent. The woman is all, "Say what?" so she travels to the convent to see whether she should continue to pay and why her father secretly did so. Ignoring many evil foreshadowings (thunderstorms, man in tavern who refuses to take her to the convent because he's spooked), she hops in a boat with a menacing creepy guy and his even creepier assistant, a deranged nude man who bites into raw fish and grins maniacally. I might have canceled the rest of the trip at this point, but it would have resulted in a five-minute film. Needless to say, things get worse when she gets to the convent.
Baino, an Italian director, filmed Dead Waters in Ukraine with a British cast, adding to the film's disjointed, dreamlike feel. Overly arty, Dead Waters' heavily stylized manner of storytelling would have irritated me with any other kind of film, but horror is a forgiving genre. The atmosphere works. The film is light on dialogue, letting a series of dreamlike images tell the story. If you're looking for narrative coherence, you won't find it. The story makes no sense and isn't particularly interesting, but the images are striking and the freakiness is appealing. Again, it's not a strong film, but it's certainly better than The Dead Pit. Fans of H.P. Lovecraft or Dario Argento will find plenty to like.
Note: Dead Waters is also available on DVD under its original title, Dark Waters. The video store I rented this from carried both. I don't think they realized they were the same movie.