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Dark Waters (1993) is a Lovecraftian horror film directed by Mariano Baino. This non-rated film includes the talents of Louise Salter, Venera Simmons, and Mariya Kapnist. The film is available per subscription to AMC+, Screambox, and Shudder as of this review.

Elizabeth (Louise Salter) is desperate to unravel the mysteries of the island she shares a foggy history with. When her father died, she was free to pursue this mystery, despite his pleas for her to never visit the island. Troubled by nightmares that feel more like memories, Elizabeth reveals a Lovecraftian tale of horrors.

A horizon of crosses and their bearers. At the center of the film is a red stone emblem. Beneath it is a woman looking up. Dark Waters is written on the bottom.
Dark Waters Alt Cover

What I Like

I am a sucker for Lovecraftian/Cosmic horror. Few things are more haunting than realizing you are a small and insignificant ant in a cosmic-level food chain. Dark Waters fits this underrepresented niche. While it holds more of the Lovecraftian aesthetic over the deeper themes of the genre, one does feel the weight of unseen cosmic forces. More directly connected to the Lovecraftian are the physical mutations and transformations one endures from cosmic horror.

Much like Evil Dead (1981), there are several scenes that follow a force passing through the setting, enacting chaos, and adding malicious sentience to the world. I will say that Evil Dead did this more effectively by speeding up the scene to add further eeriness, but the effect works all the same.

Louise Salter’s Elizabeth makes a rather effective and interesting Lovecraftian protagonist. Elizabeth’s tragic need to unravel answers falls in line with the greater threats of the genre.

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The final creature makes excellent use of special and practical effects, though it’s not lost on me how some of the designs evoke more adult features. This point doesn’t mean Dark Waters sexualizes these elements, instead monstrously depicting them. Regardless, there remains a surreal and haunting aspect to these effects.

A small little feature is that the film includes Ukrainian, or a similarly rooted Slavic language, in which I can fish out a few words. As the filming occurred in Ukraine, possibly the first after the Soviet collapse, I feel somewhat confident in this assumption. These sections were left untranslated, which seems more like a creative choice than a mistake. As movies with Slavic languages are a small niche, I figure it might be good to bring it up here as a plus for those learning or eager to learn.

White background, rubber stamp with disclaimer pressed against the white background.
Disclaimer Kimberley Web Design

Tired Tropes and Trigger Warnings

I suppose animal cruelty occurs, but nothing directly shows this. Like many Lovecraftian horrors, dead and decayed ocean life fills the screen.

With some hesitation, I might mention that nudity favors female bodies. Following an earlier point, this is far from erotic. However, Dark Waters exclusively focuses on female bodies.

A woman in a cave waits, surrounded by candles.
Louise Salter as Elizabeth

What I Dislike or Considerations

Dark Waters is a 1993 film with effects and visuals to showcase this. I will say that there are several films before and during that look better, but it’s far from a horrible-looking film. Ultimately, it shows its age.

Dark Waters doesn’t hold the tightest script, filling the runtime with scenes that don’t serve a greater point or linger on visuals. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that these make the film a drag, but they are technically unnecessary and create repetition that stagnates the plot. Dark Waters repeats a common formula: Elizabeth finding sanctuary, waits for something to happen, and gets attacked.

Zeth M. Martinez

Final Thoughts

Dark Waters modernizes Lovecraftian horror for its original 1993 audience. Today, it still holds up in many ways, despite lackluster effects and a loose script. Diving further to the aesthetic of Lovecraft, horror remains hopelessly powerful and indifferent to the insignificant mortals that worship it. It remains a quality choice for those dedicated fans of the genre.
3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

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Zeth received his M.A in English with a focus in Creative Writing at CSU, Chico. As a human writer, he published in the 9th volume of Multicultural Echoes, served on the editorial board of Watershed Review, and is a horror reviewer for Haunted MTL. All agree he is a real-life human and not an octopus in human skin. Fascinated by horror novels and their movie adaptations, Zeth channels his bone-riddled arms in their study. Games are also a tasty treat, but he only has the two human limbs to write. If you enjoy his writing, check out his website.

Movies n TV

The Boys, The Insider

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We’ve reached the second to last episode of The Boys, season four. And, as is appropriate for the penultimate episode of any show, things have to get a lot worse before they can get better.

Let’s discuss.

The story

Christmas is coming, and the whole world is getting ready. Ryan, despite being very clear that he didn’t want to appear on any TV shows or movies, has been strong-armed into participating in a Vought puppet Christmas special. He draws the line, though, when asked to sing about turning one’s parents in if they start talking about woke things.

Cameron Crovetti in The Boys.

Meanwhile, The Boys are trying to keep each other together. Butcher decides to take Sameer to the rest of the team. He also gets Frenchie out of prison, hoping they can make the Sup virus necessary to finally take down Homelander. Instead, this decision means disaster for one member of the team.

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What worked

I first want to talk about Ryan’s speech near the end of the episode. Because it was exactly the moral of this whole story.

Ryan’s dad is a monster. His stepdad is also kind of a monster. But Ryan is a good kid. He cares about people, about family. And while he loves Homelander and Butcher, he doesn’t want to be like them.

Even better, this speech sounded like something a kid would say. Ryan didn’t open his mouth and start sounding like a college student all of a sudden. He sounds like a kid who misses his mom and wants to live up to the good standards she set for him. And I think that’s terrific.

Speaking of Homelander, he shot himself in the foot in this episode. I said earlier in the season that his hubris was going to be his downfall, and I was right. Without Sage, he just has the same weaknesses he’s always had. He’s going to fail because he just isn’t clever enough or patient enough to succeed.

Without Sage, I think a win is in the bag for The Boys. This isn’t to say that Homelander by himself isn’t dangerous. It’s just that he’s more like a wildfire than a controlled burn. He’s going to cause a lot of damage, but not get anything he wants out of it.

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More’s the pity for him and everyone else who has to share his world.

Finally, I am thrilled with A-Train’s redemption story. I love that he wants to be a good person not to save himself, but to be a good person. His honest, pure and warm reaction to that little kid smiling at him in the last episode was heartwarming. It changed him in a moment, bringing to light a goodness that he’s been keeping under wraps for a long time.

Jessie T. Usher in The Boys.

This, along with Ryan’s courageous speech, proves once again what The Boys does so well. Yes, it’s gruesome. Yes, there’s blood and balls and batshit events. Yes, someone occasionally gets ripped in half. But there is a true human goodness in the story. One that we catch glimpses of. There are good people among the monsters. There is hope for redemption.

What didn’t work

Of course, so few things in this life are perfect, and this episode was no exception. For instance, I was irritated by the insinuation that Butcher cheated on his wife.

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That just doesn’t make any sense. We’ve seen flashbacks of Billy and Becca. They were happy. He was happy. He was head over heels for her. And I don’t think it’s realistic or necessary for the character to throw in that he cheated. It does nothing to add to the story, it’s just a weird and offputting moment.

Doesn’t Butcher have enough to hate about himself? Can’t we just give him that at least he was a good husband?

Finally, I kind of hate that we ended up with Annie being caught. It’s just cliche, which is something I don’t normally say about this show. It feels lazy unless they do something very clever with it in the last episode. Which, I suppose, they might.

Next up is the season finale. And with this season being as insane as it has been, I’m expecting nothing short of bloody fireworks. And I mean literal fireworks of blood. At this point, would it surprise anyone?

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4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

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Movies n TV

The Boys, Dirty Business

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Episode six of The Boys was one of the most surprising episodes of the series so far. And that is certainly saying something. Because this season has so far been bonkers.

The story

Our episode today revolves around a party at Tek Knight’s lovely mansion. Yes, it does look just like Wayne Manor.

The Boys know that Tek Knight is working with Homelander on something, but they don’t know the details. So they decide to send Hughie in to bug the mansion.

Because that’s worked so well the other two times he’s tried to hide a bug!

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It should surprise no one that this time goes no better. Hughie finds himself in Tek Knight’s basement. And by that I mean his BDSM dungeon.

Meanwhile, the party upstairs is no less disturbing. Homelander and Sage are trying to convince some well-off political donors to support a cue after the election. When pressed for details on his plan, Homelander freezes. He looks to Sage for help, but she wasn’t recently shot in the head and still in the junk food stage of her healing.

Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on your point of view, Neuman jumps in and saves the day.

Claudia Doumit in The Boys.

What works

If I’m going to say one thing about this episode, it didn’t hold back at all. I didn’t expect them to show a character masturbating, sitting their bare behind on a cake, or spraying breastmilk into someone’s face. But every time I thought they’d cut the scene and let something be left to our imagination, they did not do that.

Derek Wilson in The Boys.

This is a dangerous move. Whenever you show the monster, you run the risk of them not being scary enough, or gross enough. As Stephen King says in Danse Macabre, to leave this sort of thing to the imagination if the reader makes things so much worse. So when they finally experience the monster, they might say that this isn’t so bad. It could have been so much worse.

But in this case, they managed to avoid that by making the scenes, especially the ones in Tek Knight’s dungeon, so much worse than I imagined it would be.

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What doesn’t work

While this was a deeply disturbing episode in many ways, there was one really innocent and sweet moment.

And yes, I did have a problem with it.

Confronted by Firecracker, Annie decides to apologize for spreading rumors about her when they were kids. She tells her that she is genuinely sorry.

And I believe her. I don’t think Firecracker did, but I did.

So why is this an issue? Because I’m starting to think that Annie is maybe too nice. She is too good.

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I know that Annie is our good guy. But every one of the other good guys has flaws. Hughie let his pride get in the way and took Temp V. MM hid himself from his daughter instead of teaching her to work through her emotions. Kimiko is far too closed off and has a hard time trusting others. Frenchie numbs himself with drugs. And well, what hasn’t Butcher done?

It is unrealistic that Annie is just so kind and so flawless. We all have shadows in our personalities. We all have weaknesses, we all mess up. We all do things we wish we could take back. The fact that Annie doesn’t seem to have anything like that is not just unrealistic. It’s infantilizing.

Give her some deep dark secrets. Give her something real to regret.

This was a shocking episode, even for someone fairly jaded like me. I wasn’t expecting the sort of weird sexual depravity, though I guess maybe I should have seen it coming. It was dark, upsetting, tense, and funny as hell. And with just two episodes left in the season, I can imagine the stakes are only going to get higher.

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4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

By the way, if you like my writing you can get my short story, Man In The Woods, on Smashwords and Amazon.

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Movies n TV

House of he Dragon: S2E4 – The Return of Trogdor!

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Instead of recapping this episode, I will link you to Strongbad, so you can see something with a dragon that doesn’t suck.

See you for Episode 5!

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