Tuesday, May 12, 2020

The Onetti Brothers’ What the Waters Left Behind

The devastation of Epecuen was even worse than the hardest hit wards during Hurricane Katrina. The former tourist city on Argentina’s coast was wiped out and it is never coming back. Of course, that makes it an intriguing shooting location for an irresponsible film crew. Their documentary is doomed and so are they in the Onetti Brothers’ What the Waters Left Behind, which releases today on DVD.

Vasco, his hired crew, and his faithless girlfriend Vicky are driving to Epecuen to make a documentary. Their star will be Carla, who is revisiting the site of the disaster she barely survived as a child. However, they should have turned right around when they got an eyeful of the rustic yokels at the last-chance gas station—and their sketchy Sweeney Todd-esque meat pies—but they don’t.

Naturally, the Texas Chainsaw-style freaks proceed to kill them off in brutal fashion. There is one outsider added to the mix: “Senor X,” who is looking for a missing loved on, but he doesn’t amount to much. There is maybe one surprise in store for horror fans, but The Waters still has little to offer that is new and absolutely nothing that is pleasant to watch.

The Onetti Brothers’ foray into the slasher sub-genre really only has three things going for it: location, location, and location. The Epecuen backdrops are truly haunting. They are also arguably exploitative. This is the scene of a massive tragedy, so the film’s depiction of knuckle-dragging survivors is really quite questionable.

The slasher violence is also often so cruel, it is really impossible to enjoy the film. It is just too much, and all in quite dubious taste. Still, it is technically impressive, especially the work of cinematographer Facundo Nuble, who dramatically captures the scarred landscape with an appropriately washed color palate.

The Onetti’s characterization largely relies on general genre stereotypes, but Victoria Maurette definitely shows the greatest range as Carla, the survivor. She is the only cast-member who stands out to any extent, including the murderous freaks. However, fans will also definitely notice Vasco, the director, wears a t-shirt featuring Francesca, the Onetti Brothers’ neo-retro-giallo, which is a much better film than this. Not recommended, What the Waters Left Behind releases today on DVD.