Dark Waters (1993)
If you've been reading this blog for awhile, you've probably noticed that I'm a total sucker for a good art house horror film. And Dark Waters, directed by Mariano Baino, ticked all the right boxes for me. This is a slow build, Gothic, Lovecraftian film that wears its surrealism on its sleeve and gives a heavy nod to Italian giallos.
The story revolves around a young woman from named Elizabeth who decides to return to the place of her birth - a remote, craggy island that houses a convent. Elizabeth hopes to find out more about her lineage, but discovers that the nuns are hiding a horrific secret.
Plots like these - where someone returns to their place of birth, only to be confronted with something terrible in their history - are fascinating to me. We all, surely, have someone or something awful in our family history whether we are aware of it or not, and so I immediately took interest in Elizabeth's story. What would she discover about her family? Did the nuns know her mother? And what are they hiding in the caverns below the convent?
Dark Waters is incredibly lush and sensual. Not in the way the word "sensual" is often used today - as a stand-in for "sexy." No, Dark Waters is legit sensual, in the way the word was originally intended. It attacks the senses. Candles flicker moodily in the caverns, you can hear the wind and rain lashing against the stone walls of the convent, and almost smell the rotting fish carcasses that have washed up on the island's beach. It's a real treat to see something with such texture and richness - it hits you in all the best possible ways.
As with most horror films, it's not for everyone. You will need patience, as it's not a fast moving, wild ride of a film. But if you commit to immersing yourself in the atmosphere, to let it carry you through the plot of this film, I think you'll be pleased.