Posts Tagged With: H.P. Lovecraft

Facing The Black Sea And All Therein That May Be Explored… Mariano Baino’s DARK WATERS Reviewed

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BD. Region Free. Severin. Unrated.

The collapse of the Italian film industry in the mid-late ’80s was followed by an ever more significant one in the early ’90s, that of the Soviet Union. Energetic Neapolitan Mariano Baino had already moved to London in search of opportunity and made the short Caruncula (1991), on which Andy Bark served as editor. When the latter made contact with some of the new breed of Russian entrepreneurs, keen to invest in a motion picture, Baino didn’t need much persuading. Soon he, Bark (who would co-write the new picture), a couple of actresses and a small crew were Crimea-bound. They were young, talented, optimistic and enthusiastic. They had striking coastal locations and everything in The Ukraine was going to cost doodly-squat… what could possibly go wrong?

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Plenty, as it happened (much of which I’ve detailed elsewhere). A wild, wild East interpretation of entrepreneurship that extended to, e.g. film stock being pilfered and sold off before Baino could load it into a camera, coupled with a not exactly stringent work ethic, makes it miraculous that he actually managed to shoot anything at all, let alone a feature debut as promising as Dark Waters (1993). The story concerns Elizabeth (Baino discovery Louise Salter, who would appear in Interview With The Vampire and bag a substantial role in Our Friends In The North shortly afterwards), a young woman who goes back to Odessa to learn the sinister secret buried in her past. At the conclusion of a harrowing personal odyssey exceeded in weirdness and suffering only by the collective one undertaken by the cast and crew of this film, she learns the hideous truth and must decide to collude in or strive against the unleashing of a Cthulhuesque horror upon the Earth…

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OK, so Dark Waters is a triumph of visual style (the opening inundation of a church is a remarkable set piece… and Igor Clark’s lush orchestral score doesn’t hurt) over narrative content but that’s exactly the criticism that has been levelled at the likes of such previous Pasta Paura maestros as Argento, Fulci and Soavi (all of whom, incidentally, had nice things to say about Dark Waters and its director). In truth, Argento and Fulci were spent forces by the early ’90s and Soavi, the heir presumptive, was coming up hard against the fact that there wasn’t much Italian film industry left to work in… certainly in horror terms. Baino has found it equally difficult to pursue his Lovecraftian obsessions of twisted religiosity and perverse fairy tales on the silver screen. My last viewing of Dark Waters was in a Soho screening room, where author Graham Masterton had turned up to check out the film and discuss with its director a possible film adaptation of his auto-cannibalistic outrage Ritual. Now that would have been something to behold… and perhaps one day will be. It’s difficult to believe that we’ve seen the last from Mariano Baino, whose myriad cinematic talents are exceeded only by his moxy. Notable post DW credits include Lady M 5.1 (2016), starring Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni from Argento productions Opera, Demons 2 and Mother Of Tears, though you’ll never see my favourite Baino-directed effort… me and Mrs Freudstein’s wedding video!

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Incidentally, the eejit in his underpants, chewing on raw calamari in a rowing boat, is not only a nod to Mario Bava’s seminal Bay Of Blood but a role that was originally written for Yours Truly. I opted to skip the trip to Odessa and there’s nothing among the tales of woe about pain in Ukraine that abound among the bonus materials included on this set which could possibly persuade me that I made the wrong decision. However, as Baino’s short films are also included as extras you do get the opportunity to check out my show stopping turn as “cinema undesirable” in Caruncula and yes, if I ever write my memoirs I will be giving them the title Cinema Undesirable… but no, I have absolutely no intention whatsoever of boring people to death with memoirs culled from my übertedious life.

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MB (looking considerably svelter than last time I saw him) expresses gratitude here that Dark Waters is being afforded a second chance of discovery by horror fans. This Severin release is effectively a third chance, as after the 1995 UK video release disappeared without a trace (Tartan sparing every effort to get behind it) there was a rather nice special DVD edition from Italian outfit No Shame. This nifty looking Severin BD reprises the supplementary material from that (director’s intro and commentary track, deleted scenes and blooper reel, plus the 50 minute featurette Deep Into Dark Waters) and adds new featurettes Let There Be Water and Controlling The Uncontrollable, alongside those aforementioned Baino shorts.

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Grab this opportunity to immerse yourself in Dark Waters with avid alacrity. Revel in it. Buy multiple copies for yourself… your work-mates… your nearest and dearest… random strangers. I’m particularly keen to see Dark Waters rack up massive belated profits, because I’ve got points in it…

… and what do points make?

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At The Mountains Of MAYHEM (aka Dreams In The Art House / The Doom That Came To Broadway)… Nottingham’s 2016 Horror Fest Reviewed

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The 12th annual Mayhem Film Fest at Nottingham’s Broadway Cinema (13th-16th October), as curated by Their Dark Lordships Chris Cooke and Steven Sheil, was a total triumph, tenebrously topped-and-tailed with spicy squirts of HP (Lovecraft) sauce. The gentlemen of The Duke St Workshop (a noted “Spooktronica Outfit”, Mr Cooke informs me) opened the proceedings in grand style, weaving a mesmerising electro web as Laurence R Harvey declaimed selections  from the “Tales Of H. P. Lovecraft” to a projected backdrop of unsettling imagery. Festival closer The Void (directed by festival guests Jeremy Gillespie and Steven Kostanski) plundered a grab bag of gory imagery from the glory days of Lucio Fulci and Stuart Gordon in the service of a crowd pleasing concoction that I can best characterise as “Assault On Cthulhu Hospital.”

Interstitial treats included Julia Ducournau’s much-hyped Raw (in which the cannibalism that’s allegedly had previous audience members carried out on stretchers was considerably less appalling to me than the conformity brutally enforced by the anti-heroine’s moronic fellow students) and a UK premiere for The Mo Brothers’ Indonesian actioner Headshot (“The film that puts The Raid In The Shade!”, doncha know.) I’m calling bullshit on Emiliano Rocha Minter’s We Are The Flesh, which aspires to avant-garde outrage but melts down into a sub-Jodorowsky mess… after which Steven Barker’s The Rezort got things back on track via its winning “Westworld with zombies” formula (Barker introduced the film and later fielded questions from the audience, none of whom had the nerve to point out that his film’s boffo climactic plot revelation had been pinched from Bruno Mattei’s Zombie Creeping Flesh!) And so to Jim Hosking’s The Greasy Strangler, about which I would simply like to say… !!!!!!!??!

Gabriele Mainetti’s They Call Me Jeeg Robot garlands its familiar Italian cop film narrative with tropes imported from Japanese anime as its lowly-criminal-turned-accidental-superhero protagonist struggles to reconnect with the human race that he’d given up on… a similar tale, differently handled, in Billy O’Brien’s I Am Not A Serial Killer, your basic everyday story of a sociopathic slacker (Max Records… you heard what I said, Max Records!) and his up-and-down relationship with a superannuated serial killer (Christopher Lloyd, no less) that also boasts the most out-of-left-field plot twist in recent memory. O’Brien and writer Christopher Hyde did the Q&A thing, post screening. Carles Torrens’ Pet rang the changes on its basic The Collector storyline with a female captive who’s not what she initially seems… brief outbreaks of torture porn notwithstanding, this one was ultimately undone by the unbelievability of its lead characters (still not sure whether this was attributable to how they were performed or how they were written… possibly all of the above.)

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In the face of much ironic / post modern festival content, Sean (The Loved Ones) Byrne’s The Devil’s Candy played things straight, its classic take on demonic possession going down very well indeed with the assembled Mayhem revellers. Don’t Kill It is a sub-Sam Raimi offering from Michael Mendez, whose fiendishly simple plot conceit keeps the violent thrills coming thick and fast. It also boasts a wonderfully self mocking performance from Dolph Lundgren as demon hunter Jebediah Woodley. The narrative of Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s much-anticipated return to the J-Horror field, Creepy, unfolds at a leisurely pace as its protagonist drifts gradually and inexorably into the (frankly unfeasible) trap set by his, er, creepy neighbour. I missed much of The Ghoul, so apologies to director Gareth Tunley, yet another of the festival’s star guests.

Mayhem began as a short films festival and honours its roots every year with a collection of the same. This year’s two-hour strand of promising cinematic sketches ranged from Tristan Ofield’s bonsai Sci-fi epic White Lily to the black comedy of Conor McMahon’s Stranger In The Night (not to mention the brown comedy of The Procedure!)

We were further treated to two late night retro screenings, Mario Bava’s Alien-inspiring mini masterpiece Planet Of The Vampires (remastered under the supervision of flavour-of-the-month Nicolas Winding Refn and – lest it be forgot – Lamberto Bava) and a timely, touching projection of Herschell Gordon Lewis’s epochal Blood Feast with a special filmed introduction by The Godfather of Gore himself, so recently lost to us.

Incidental festival delights included the film introductions and knockabout musical-themed goody bag giveaways conducted by the redoubtable Sheil / Cooke double act and the chance to meet some social media friends in the flesh (great to spend a cozy hour or two with @CosiPerversa), coin a few new friendships and renew fond old acquaintances with the likes of David and Eva Reprobate, Carl Severin, the very FAB Harvey Fenton, the hot-rockin’ Morrows, Ewan and Mike from Arrow… big hello to the Shudder crew, too.

‘Twas particularly sweet to be in the team that won the traditional pre-closer quiz (nay, “Flinterrogation”) along with Carl, Eva, charming chanteuse Robyn Taylor and the agreeable dude whose name currently eludes me (sorry!) If I’ve forgotten anything or anybody else… well, I’m getting on a bit now! Still hopefully sprightly enough to make it to Mayhem 2017… see you there?

(Look out for my extended Festival report in an upcoming issue of Dark Side magazine…)

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