Several years ago, filmmaking brothers Luciano and Nicolás Onetti unleashed their Argentinian slasher What the Waters Left Behind onto the horror world. The slasher’s premise – documentary filmmakers running afoul of hillbilly cannibals – wasn’t particularly original. But the Epecuén setting – a very real and tragic ghost town – added something extra to the thriller. Apparently, the movie gained enough of a following to earn a sequel – What the Waters Left Behind: Scars. For the sequel, only one of the brothers, Nicolás, is back behind the camera.
Nearing the end of their tour, indie rock band The Ravens are coming apart at the seams. From one dive bar to the next, the band are at each other’s throats most nights. When the band agrees to drive a groupie home after she hooks up with the guitarist, they find themselves stranded in the ghost town, Epecuén. But Epecuén isn’t as abandoned as it appears. Lurking somewhere amongst the ruins, a clan of sadistic cannibals are watching and waiting to prey on the unsuspecting musicians.
What the Waters Left Behind: Scars Serves Up Leftovers in Terms of Story
If you haven’t seen the original 2017 What the Waters Left Behind – which is hard to find on VOD platforms – you don’t need to worry. Though a different writer, Camilo Zaffora, penned Scars, it’s really more of the same with a bit of upgraded budget. Most importantly, if you’ve watched any horror movie where snotty urbanites wander into a rural landscape and provoke the locals you won’t have any problem following this slasher. Expect bits of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre mixed with Wrong Turn and a touch of Saw. In fact, What the Waters Left Behind: Scars goes so far as to recycle Tobe Hooper’s infamous dinner table scene. When a strange groupie invites the family back to her family’s remote home for barbeque you wouldn’t be faulted for wondering if this was satire.
Most importantly, if you’ve watched any horror movie where snotty urbanites wander into a rural landscape and provoke the locals you won’t have any problem following this slasher.
No, What the Waters Left Behind: Scars plays its source material straight. It’s just one of many rehashes of a premise that offers nothing new. Astute audiences should have no problems figuring out the order in which our protagonists die based on their degree of obnoxiousness. Onetti and Zaffora offer a couple of small surprises in the final act, but they largely stick to a tried and true blueprint. Perhaps to compensate for overexposing their villains, Onetti and Zaffora flirt with some parallels between predator and prey – both sides seemingly turn on their own. Too bad it’s an idea that adds nothing.
What The Waters Left Behind: Scars Can’t Quite Deliver on its Promised Intensity
About the only other thing that What the Waters Left Behind: Scars does differently is its inclusion of prologue set during The Falklands War. It’s another random bit that seems to add nothing. Ultimately, all the sequel needs to do is deliver on what it promises – sadistic and tense violence. The 2017 original slasher served up some grotesque kills after a plodding first act. And Scars delivers on some repulsive rural horror … sort of. That is, there ideas here that play out on screen. Yet Onetti also seems to water things down for the sequel. Nothing here ever comes close to the intensity or graphicness of a Frontier(s) or The Devil’s Rejects.
Specifically, What the Waters Left Behind: Scars can’t escape feeling formulaic. And the sequel too quickly discards some of its best assets. The Epecuén setting – with its tragic backstory – offered a unique, sun-soaked backdrop for the original movie. Unfortunately, Onetti inexplicably moves the majority of the sequel’s second half to a generic, dour indoor setting. Despite the overuse of creepy animal masks in horror, the villains here have a disturbing quality that’s also quickly abandoned. Like the original, this slasher sequel also doesn’t pace things out very well. Though its tone feels appropriately nihilistic, the ending still feels flat and anticlimactic.
What the Waters Left Behind: Scars Adds Very Little to its Recycled Premise
There’s a pretty simple formula for this sort of slasher movie and What the Waters Left Behind: Scars follows it to a fault. Don’t expect Onetti to deviate too much from this blueprint. And that would be fine if Onetti delivered on the promise of a gruesome rural slasher. While the ideas on screen feel gruesome and the tone is nihilistic, there’s nothing here that approaches the intensity of past titles in the subgenre. Even worse is that Onetti takes his slasher into a dour indoor setting, forsaking the movie’s biggest asset – the creepy Epecuén setting. Pacing problems also keep this one from really hitting any sort of full gear. As a result, What the Waters Left Behind: Scars likely won’t register shortly after watching it.