Horror Movie Review: Dark Waters (1994)

Dark Waters is a horror film that was directed by Mariano Baino, releasing in 1994. It’s believed to have been the first Western film to be shot in Ukraine following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Elizabeth travels to a convent on a remote island where her mother died after giving birth to her. Elizabeth’s father had been sending donations there for decades until he recently passed away. The convent is populated only by nuns. They practise strange rituals in the catacombs under the building and seem to be holding something at bay.

Upon arriving on the island, Elizabeth is greeted by the nuns and taken to the ancient Mother Superior. She is blind and communicates through an assistant. Elizabeth tells the Mother Superior that she is there to see why her father donated money to the convent and if she is willing to continue the charity.

She is provided with a room but all her possessions are confiscated until she decides to leave. Elizabeth is befriended by a novice named Sarah. She’s appointed to act as her guide during her stay. Elizabeth reveals to Sarah that she was actually born on the island and lived there until she was seven.

Elizabeth and Sarah visit the decaying library of the convent. There they discover an ancient book with sinister images of a demonic creature. They also find a strange painting that features a pair of young girls and a pagan amulet. While Sarah is out of the room looking for more light Elizabeth is attacked by one of the nuns. Elizabeth narrowly escapes when the nun accidentally falls to her death out of an open window.

Elizabeth then discovers an entrance into a labyrinth of catacombs beneath the convent. There she spies on a strange procession of nuns carrying burning crosses and a bloody corpse wrapped in a sheet. Elizabeth gets lost and wanders into a pit-like room where a blind painter has covered the walls with images.

The next day she sees a boat leaving the island despite Sarah having told her that there would be no way to reach the mainland for several days

What is going on at the convent? Check out Dark Waters to find out.

Dark Waters is a decent horror movie with some niggling issues. Firstly, it’s worth noting just how slow to start it is. The sets used at the convent are a visual feast for the eyes. However, I could have done without so many scenes of Elizabeth slowly making her way through corridors. It got more and more noticeable as the film went on. I had to check my settings at one point because I was convinced the film was running in slow-motion. Once you’ve seen one heavily candle lit passageway, you’ve seen them all. Genuinely, the candle budget must have been astronomical.

Secondly, while the plot is well crafted it just isn’t fleshed out enough. By the end, I found myself more confused by proceedings than anything. There’s an abundance of religious babble about this or that. Ultimately, I wasn’t sure what they were trying to say.

I don’t want to sound too negative because there is some good things to see in Dark Waters. In fact, the atmosphere it generates at times felt reminiscent of a Clive Barker tale. There’s some creepy imagery at hand, that’s for sure.

The highlight of the film is undoubtedly the ending. We get some nice looking makeup and creature effects. Still, considering how things went down I was hoping for it to end more negatively than it does.

There’s just one thing I didn’t understand. If the nuns feared Elizabeth in any way then why didn’t they just kill her when she first arrived? They attempt to assassinate her a couple of times but always send one nun to do the job. What was the purpose of burning all the crosses and doing those rituals?

Dark Waters
  • The Final Score - 6/10
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