October 30th, 2011
|10:36 pm - 31 Days of Halloween: Dark Waters|
Ah, nunsploitation! When was the last time I saw a good evil nun movie? No, seriously, nunsploitation is an actual thing (Wikipedia says so), just like Nazisploitation (Ilsa: She-Wolf of the SS) and Wiccansploitation (Blood on Satan's Claw). Plenty of classic titles in this genre: Killer Nun, Sisters of Satan, Nude Nuns with Big Guns... Only the titles are classic, of course. Ken Russell's The Devils actually IS a classic, but I wouldn't seek any of the others out.
I must confess, I wasn't much into this one, which would be an unforgivable admission if I were a professional, but I'm not, and you've gotten nearly a month's worth of pretty good write-ups so far. Even Roger Ebert half-asses it once in awhile. Less often than me, I'll grant you, but nobody's paying me for this stuff.
Dark Waters is not the 2005 movie starring Jennifer Connolly. This one was made in 1993 in Italy, the UK, and Russia almost immediately following the fall of the Soviet Union. The making of this movie was apparently tumultuous and might actually be pretty interesting, but that's not part of my scope here.
The story centers around Elizabeth, an English girl who has come to remote island to visit a friend who happens to be a nun. Elizabeth just misses her -- she's left the convent to return to London. The nuns offer Elizabeth accommodations anyway, and she is befriended by Sarah, a novice. We learn that Elizabeth was born on this island, but her mother died in childbirth and her father took her to London when she was seven.
Sarah and Elizabeth check out the convent's library, which is normally off-limits, and they find some ancient books with extremely disturbing illustrations. Elizabeth gets attacked by a nun while Sarah is out of the room. The nun falls to her death during the struggle, and Elizabeth winds up in a labyrinth of catacombs under the convent where she witnesses the burial of a corpse wrapped in a blood-soaked sheet, and stumbles into a pit where a blind painter works ceaselessly to cover the walls with alarming images. In the paintings she sees the face of her friend, the body wrapped in a bloody shroud, and realizes that she's being lied to by everybody. Her friend is dead.
She begins to suspect Sarah, and meanwhile she's having strange dreams and visions of her childhood. Things get weirder. She eats a raw fish, and a nun gets flayed. In the end, Sarah turns out to be Elizabeth's sister, and not exactly human, and their mother is revealed to be a demon trapped in the basement of the convent.
I guess people like this movie, but I really didn't. I may just have been in the wrong mood tonight. There are some interesting ideas and images -- I especially like the blind, prophetic painter -- but I feel like it doesn't go anywhere worthwhile. Wikipedia says that the movie was originally conceived as an homage to H.P. Lovecraft, borrowing heavily from some of his stories, but that the budget necessitated a simpler production. I see hints of The Dunwich Horror and The Shadow Over Innsmouth, but the story is more complicated and less interesting than either of those. You know what else this feels like? Susperia. But we already have a good version of Susperia. Who needs another one?
I didn't recognize any of the names involved. The actress who plays Elizabeth must be British, and the one who plays Sarah might be, but most of characters are played by non-native English speakers who sound like they memorized the dialog phonetically. The inflections and cadences are all wrong. Between the thick accents and the bad delivery, it's difficult to make out a lot of the words. I suppose the rest of the world feels the same way when American actors have to mumble their way through French or Japanese.
I feel like I should have enjoyed Dark Waters more, so I wouldn't tell anybody not to see it, but I don't feel like revisiting it to pick up what I missed.
Here's the trailer, which makes the film look far worse than it actually is.