New Horror Releases: What The Waters Left Behind (2017) - Reviewed

We review What the Waters Left Behind
Epecuén was at one time a thriving tourist village in Argentina, one which was accessible from Buenos Aires by train. Tourism was the main reason Epecuén had developed and prospered, with nearly 300 businesses and lodging that could accommodate at least 5,000 visitors. On 6 November 1985 a seiche, the result of a rare weather pattern, broke through the villages’ protection and the flooding eventually reached a peak of 33 feet. It became uninhabitable and was abandoned and never rebuilt, with around 1,500 inhabitants being displaced.

Enter in directors Luciano and Nicolas Onetti to head to the abandoned ruins of Epecuén to craft a slasher tale in What the Waters Left Behind that combines films like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Hills Have Eyes, and Wrong Turn, stepping away from the Italian giallo themes that they explored in Deep Sleep and Francesca. While it is a clear homage to TCM and Hills, What the Waters Left Behind manages to slightly twist the standard slasher plot to deliver a mostly successful take on sick and twisted families. Regardless of some brutally violent sequences, the real star of the film is barren and stunning location of Epecuén and the cinematography that combines for some breathtaking imagery.

A small documentary crew travel to Epecuén to make a documentary about the flood and the abandoned village, with one of the survivors of the event serving as the subject of the film. What they don’t expect to find is a psychotic family residing in the town, which of course inevitably leads to a fight for survival and some severed limbs.

The Onettis do it all on their films, they wrote, directed, produced, edited, and scored the project. The story isn’t going to blow anyone away, it’s an obvious homage to the films mentioned above and the filmmakers make no bones about the fact that they’re are honoring the genre. What makes this movie more successful than other TCM retreads is the absolutely amazing location and history that is contained within. That cannot be replicated and is an authentic piece of this film. The only issue with the story would have to do with some of the pacing and editing changes, which affect the overall flow of the movie. It also takes a significant amount of time to really deliver any true action.

Despite those issues, the Onettis and cinematographer Facundo Nuble deliver some truly masterful imagery in this unique location. And what a location it is. It’s a dead and barren land with leveled concrete buildings and lifeless trees sticking out of the ground like wooden poles. It is filled with only grays and browns from the cement and dirt, aside from the beautiful blues of the ocean near the village. They give the audience excellent overhead shots and camera angles, along with using the sunlight to both cast shadows and create interesting visuals. Their selection of song and score choices display a terrific ability to piece together some truly memorable scenes.

As with any horror film that’s trying to pay tribute to TCM, one has to expect there to be an excessive amount of violence. The movie does provide fans with a decent supply of splattering blood and gore, albeit mostly in the final act. The first half of the movie may prove to be a little too slow for some fans and ultimately not quite worth the wait for a big payoff.

What the Waters Left Behind is better than many of the other TCM knockoffs and similar fare, but it does have some glaring issues with the pacing and editing. Regardless of those problems, it is still worth checking out for the stunning visuals and fair amount of violence and gore that is presented on screen. 

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-Raul Vantassle