Dark Waters (DVD)

Dark Waters (click for larger image)Starring Louise Salter, Venera Simmons, Anna Rose Phipps

Directed by Mariano Baino

Distributed by NoShame Films

The early 90s was an interesting time for the horror genre thanks to the offerings of several young foreign based filmmakers. These neophytes delivered films with original scenarios and a bold sense of style to back them up. Guillermo del Toro debuted as a director with Cronos (1993). Richard Stanley delivered Dust Devil (1992). Alex de la Iglesia unleashed the one-two punch of Accion Mutante (1993) and Day of the Beast (1994). And Italian auteur Michele Soavi conveyed his masterpiece in Dellamorte, Dellamore (aka Cemetery Man; 1994). Quietly hidden among these films but of no less importance was Mariano Baino’s Dark Waters (1994), a stylish independent horror film recently given the deluxe DVD treatment by NoShame Films.

Following the death of her father, young Elizabeth (Salter) returns to her birth place – an isolated island housing a large convent. The reason for her journey is twofold. First, a friend of hers has been living there in a convent but has recently gone missing. Second, Elizabeth wants to find out why her father has been sending money to the convent every year since he and Elizabeth left the island. Arriving at the convent on an appropriately rainy night, Elizabeth is given the cold shoulder by the nuns. They do, however, allow her to stay and have full use of their library. It is there that Elizabeth, along with the help of young nun Sarah, begins to unearth clues related to both the mysterious rituals of the nuns and her own family’s past.

Released in the US on VHS and DVD as Dead Waters by York Entertainment, this new DVD set from NoShame Films is a revelation. Digitally remastered from the film’s original negative, the film has never looked better. Presented in animorphically enhanced widescreen (1.85:1), the transfer is amazingly clear and features bold colors especially the glowing amber of candle lit catacombs. The audio offers the option of listening to the film in English (which it was shot in) or Italian with English subtitles. Audio selections include English Dolby Digital Mono or English Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks.

The DVD set is packed with extras. On the first disc Baino is joined in a full-length audio commentary with NoShame producer Michele De Angelis. The two men have a great time discussing the intricacies of the plot and the film’s genesis. Baino talks about a wide range of subjects from his fear of religious iconography and how that played into this film to losing his original choice for a lead actress two weeks before filming. To say the least, it was a very turbulent shoot, and Baino is at no loss for anecdotes about the crew’s travails. He also mentions how his dreams and the writings of H. P. Lovecraft influenced his film. It should also be noted that Baino and De Angelis keep good on their word of offering no singing on the commentary track.

Up next is the documentary “Deep into Dark Waters,” a monster 50-minute behind-the-scenes look at the film’s frenzied production. Principals including Baino, lead actress Salte,r and various crew members recount tales of hardship regarding filming in the Ukraine and Kiev. Highlights (or lowlights) include arriving on location via a 24-hour bus ride, finding out no camera had arrived, a lethargic Russian crew that took three-hour lunches, finding out their sets had been sold (by their own production manager!), various stories about vodka, discovering their huge monster was lost in the mail, and Baino being literally in the middle of a military revolution while finished post-production. It is a journey that proves to be as entertaining, twisted, and bizarre as the film itself. A deleted scenes section showcases literally every frame Baino excised for this new Director’s Cut (which actually runs seven minutes shorter than previously released versions). The first disc extras are rounded out with a silent blooper reel featuring Baino commentary and an extensive gallery of photos (both behind-the-scenes and publicity) and artwork.

Stone Amulet from Dark Waters DVD (click for larger image)The limited edition from NoShame bestows even more gifts upon the viewer. A second disc contains the Baino short films Dream Car (16 min.), Caruncula (20 min.), and Never Ever After (13 min). All three are engaging horror-fantasy entries with Caruncula (which features a great twist) being the best of the trio. Each short has the option of a Baino commentary, and there is a “making of” segment for Never (which runs longer than the actual short!). Also included is a music video for Cecily Fay directed by Baino, the Never screenplay in PDF format, and a photo gallery for the shorts. And if that weren’t enough, NoShame houses this double disc set in a huge cardboard box. Inside is a 50-page booklet on Dark Waters‘ production that features storyboards, photos, script excerpts, an essay on the film, and a biography for Baino. The storyboards and script pages should interest fans because they show a more elaborate opening. Finally, the set is topped with a miniature recreation of the stone amulet from the film. NoShame didn’t skimp as this stone amulet is really made of stone! It has a convenient wall mount on the back and is quite heavy (please, no bashing of nuns’ skulls with it).

Shot on a low budget but with enough atmosphere for ten films, Dark Waters is a solid debut feature. NoShame Films has really gone out of their its to give this small film some attention, hence giving it a new lease on cinematic life. Amazingly, it is Baino’s only feature to date. With the film finally getting its deserved recognition Stateside, fans can only hope that this will open doors for Baino to make a second feature.

Special Features
Commentary by director Mariano Baino and DVD producer Michele De Angelis
“Deep into Dark Waters” documentary
Deleted scenes
Blooper reel
Photo and artwork gallery for feature
Three Mariano Baino directed shorts
Mariano Baino directed music video
Photo and artwork gallery for shorts

4 out of 5

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Jon Condit

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