Directed by Walter Salles Jr.
This supernatural psychological drama revolves around the plight of a single mother (Jennifer Connelly) whose messy divorce and subsequent battle for the custody of her five-year-old daughter is taking a heavy toll on her emotional well being. Ultimately, the mother and daughter are able to relocate to an apartment, which, despite its excessively dilapidated interior, seems to be an adequate location for beginning a new life. Before long, however, what appears to be the spirit of a young girl begins to haunt them. No stranger to mental illness, the wary young woman brushes the visions aside as part of the inherent stress of making the transition from housewife to working, single mom. As time goes by and the apparent haunting does not subside, the apartment’s new residents are forced to examine the history of its former tenants. Dark Water also features performances from John C. Reilly, Tim Roth, and Dougray Scott.
Dark Water is a remake of a 2002 thriller by the Japanese horror specialist Hideo Nakata, whose work also inspired the “Ring” movies. I have mixed feelings about this movie. I can see on one hand how a critic may say it’s disappointingly short on scares, no great peaks of action, and an overall so/so b-movie. On the other hand, I have finally decided that I do like this movie and I think it has a good ending. For me, I think it’s an intelligent, gloomy ghost story packed with atmosphere, emotions, and above all else, water. Some people suffer an abnormal and persistent fear of water and this film definitely plays on that phobia. Maybe I am partial, as I’m a huge fan of Jennifer Connelly. I love that she is not interested in being a Barbie doll pin-up girl or the recurring favorite of romantic comedies. She tends to gravitate towards disturbed characters trying to find their way through the muddled messes of life. This role is no different and I really felt for her character throughout the movie.
Dahlia (Connelly) is experiencing a very low point in her low. Recently divorced from an unfaithful husband and fighting a brutal custody battle, she searches for a new place to live with her 5-year-old daughter, Ceci. Since most people living in New York City can only afford an apartment the size of a closet with an unpleasant smell, she looks to nearby location, Roosevelt Island. This place is depressingly industrial and majorly old. Salles uses full advantage of these conditions. Upon entering a potential building, she notices cracks in the walls and puddles of water scattered across the floor. John C. Reilly makes his appearance as the neglectful landlord who throws his pitch to her about how this is the best place to live in the area. What a dump!
It doesn’t take long to realize their residency in Apartment 9F has some major flaws. There is a massive, super creepy leak on Ceci’s bedroom ceiling. With multiple complaints to the caretaker of the building, finally the leak is fixed but soon returns with a vengeance. The leak keeps growing, with dark water creeping out resembling black coffee. Dahlia goes to the sink for a drink of water, and finds her glass full of the same murky water, with a clumpy cluster of hair as an added bonus. Gross! If bad plumbing isn’t enough of a setback, Dahlia also learns that her daughter has a new friend who happens to be the ghost of the previous 5-year-old tenant, Natasha. No one else can see Natasha, and she has the same name as a girl who has mysteriously vanished from their apartment building. As Dahlia suffers mental issues herself, she wonders if she has passed this onto her daughter. As this depressing movie continues, you begin to see a glimmer of hope for this little family and you find yourself rooting for them. I will admit, I could not predict the ending of this one, but it worked well and I felt content with its outcome.
As a horror movie, Dark Water is missing something… horror! It is difficult to scare an audience with the same ole’ story line. A leaky faucet, a creaking staircase, and a freaky vengeful child are all fairly routine tricks for this genre. Although you won’t find yourself shrieking at the screen, I think the movie works surprisingly well as a psychological thriller. The acting is great and the chemistry between the characters is very believable. I think they are very acceptable as mother and daughter, and you can feel the strong connection between them. The girl playing Ceci is a good little actress for her age. The film will not break new ground or cause an outbreak of goosebumps, but it’s strong cast and use of dreadful atmospheric conditions boost this movie above being terrible. This would be a good flick for a viewer not wanting the common thrill of anxiety your typical horror movie provides, but still creepy nonetheless. However, an overflowing toilet is not frightening even in the hands of the most talented of directors. Where’s a good exorcist plumber when you need one?