What the Waters Left Behind (AKA, Los Olvidados, 2017) – movie review

What the Waters Left Behind (Los Olvidados) poster

Upon placing it on my most anticipated horror movies of 2018 list and after one long year of patiently waiting for it, I finally got the chance to watch the highly anticipated Los Olvidados (or What the Waters Left Behind) by the Onetti brothers, two filmmakers from Argentina specialised in modern giallos and exploitation movies.

If you too want to watch What the Waters Left Behind, you can rent the movie on iTunes as I did or on Amazon Prime if you live in the US. If you’ve already seen it and you’re a fan, please consider purchasing a copy on either DVD or Blu-Ray by clicking on the image below.

As one should expect from Luciano and Nicolas Onetti, What the Waters Left Behind is a homage film that, this time, imitates the Texas Chain Saw Massacre formula: after an intense and graphic opening scene, the movie follows a group of young adults driving their through the Argentinian desert (although the actual location where they filmed was in New Zealand) to get to a town that, after a flooding, is supposed to be derelict and abandoned. Along the way, they stop at a gas station where they meet some creeps and weirdos a la TCSM and The Hills Have Eyes (and any number of movies with the same plot). Once they, actually, get to their destination, these people find out that some fucked up individuals still live there, among which a dude with a scary mask stands out.

Continue reading and check my final grade below… 

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What the Waters Left Behind is an oddly structured picture: the first act, when the characters are introduced and the plot is set in motion, is extremely long (50 mins, more or less); the second act, where shit goes down, is 25-min-long; the grand finale, which takes up the entirety of the third act, consists of measly 15 minutes of insanity.

I had to bring up the structure and time in such a specific way because I’m truly torn about this film: I was riveted and excited by the second and third act of What the Waters Left Behind, but I pretty much despised everything that happened in the first act.

In fact, the build-up to such a simple and overused storyline is way longer than it should be, especially when you have a set of characters that are, indeed, just props: there’s nothing to them that keeps you even remotely involved in their decisions and stories. Just because similar movies, in the past, used the same stock-characters to develop a similar story, doesn’t excuse the lazy writing: all the choices these props make are dumb and only occur because the filmmakers needed to progress the events.

As a big fan of this type of flicks, I always considered those with great effects and compelling characters to be the best; those with disposable characters to still be entertaining (at least you take pleasure when they get killed, like in the Wrong Turn franchise); those with no characters to be extremely underwhelming and boring.

Despite the lack of anything interesting for half of the runtime, even the first half manages to be watchable due to the fitting music (composed by the Onetti brothers themselves), awesome location and washed out look and cinematography that truly nail the feel of such a genre film.

Fortunately, when something does happen (finally!), What the Waters Left Behind doesn’t disappoint in the slightest: the second act is particularly hard to watch and effective due to the superb practical effects, which are truly gory and disturbing. This is a movie that isn’t afraid of shocking the audience with elongated sequences of torture, cannibalism and rape. It’s really a shame that, since you don’t care for any of the “good guys”, all the vile content actually loses some of the impact it could have had.

The last part of the movie is also quite satisfying, although it features one lazy reveal that, in retrospect, makes the whole viewing a truly head-scratching, nonsensical experience.

I commend Luciano and Nicolas Onetti for the fact they composed the score, directed and wrote, edited and produced the movie: however, if they put more effort into writing a decent script, the final product will be miles better than the overall pointless and disappointing end result we got. It really is a “wasted potential case”, since I sincerely appreciate their previous work (in particular Francesca, a throwback Italian giallo that you should definitely seek out), but I can’t help being very in the middle in regards to What the Waters Left Behind.

If you like this kind of movies and don’t mind sitting through a boring and annoying first half, though, please try not to miss this one out. Even though it really doesn’t hold a candle to the best examples in the sub-genre.

What the Waters Left Behind                      5/10

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