Dark Water is indeed dark, but not in the mind-twisting, sinister, ghostly way you would have hoped. No, it's more like in a doom-and-gloom way that makes you want to slit your wrists. And talk about water. There's a ton of it--dark brown, corroded water--all over the place. Get ready to be saturated with it.
Based on the novel by Japanese author Koji Suzuki (The Ring), we open on one of the many endless rainy days in the film. The recently separated Dahlia Williams (Jennifer Connelly), who is trying to start a new life for herself and her daughter, Ceci (Ariel Gade), is looking for an apartment. Embroiled in an ugly custody battle with her estranged husband (Dougray Scott), Dahlia is sort of forced to move into a dilapidated, sprawling housing block on Roosevelt Island. With cracked walls, hideous Formica and giant water stains, Dahlia and Ceci's new apartment isn't exactly ideal--but the mother and daughter try to make the best of it. Until, that is, the water leaks begin to take over their lives. Oh no! Not the dreaded WATER LEAKS! Yes, it seems something menacing and malevolent lurks in every faucet, every washing machine, basically every puddle of water in the building, playing mind games with the already fragile Dahlia. It's even threatening her little girl's life. Now, Dahlia has to figure out the riddle and protect her daughter before it's too late--even as the dark water closes in around them. Um, here's a solution: move out.
For the love of God, Jennifer, lighten up! Connelly is forever playing beautiful but tortured and depressed women in films such as Requiem for a Dream, House of Sand and Fog and A Beautiful Mind, for which she won her Oscar. And her somber performance in Dark Water is no exception. True, she is tailored-made for these kinds of roles, with her sad eyes and delicate features. But it would be nice to see if she has any other range, just to watch her smiling and laughing once in awhile. As the solemn Ceci, Ariel Gade is at least spared the pasty-face, sunken-eye look so common in child actors starring in horror dramas these days. And she only draws one creepy picture (she's forced to, actually). Of course, she does have a malicious imaginary friend, who isn't all that imaginary, but I guess we can't expect to lose all the ghostly conventions. The rest of the cast fills things out nicely. There's Scott (Mission: Impossible 2) as the spiteful ex-hubby who turns out to be a caring father; John C. Reilly as the superficial and neglectful apartment building manager; Pete Postlethwaite as the somewhat suspicious building super; and Tim Roth as Dahlia's kindly custody attorney. Too bad this pool of talent couldn't make the film any better.
Dark Water is yet another remake of yet another hit Japanese horror flick made by The Ring's Suzuki and director Hideo Nakata. Yet all the elements that made The Ring frightening--single moms with kids in jeopardy, water, little girls drowning--doesn't translate nearly as well in Dark Water. Sure, Brazilian director Walter Salles (Central Station) does his best to show you how dark these waters are going to get. But instead of chilling your spine, he just depresses and bores the hell out of you. First of all, it is continually raining throughout the whole film, which naturally brings things down a notch. Then once we get inside the apartment building, the immediate question arises: who in their right mind would want to live in such a place? As if the dismal lobby alone isn't enough, we are then subjected to the rickety elevator; the narrow, dingy, drippy hallways; and the horribly rundown, dank, water-stained apartment in which Dahlia and Ceci move around slowly and methodically. In the last 10 minutes, things do pick up, but by then it's too late. I know this is suppose to be a slow-build ghost story, but I feel like climbing into my bed, drawing the shades and sleeping for the next 12 hours just describing it to you.
Although Dark Water portends to be a creepy ghost story, you'll more than likely be bored to tears, which, of course, will be lost in all the icky water gushing everywhere.