Image courtesy of www.impawards.com
John C. Reilly……….Mr. Murray
Tim Roth……….Jeff Platzer
Perla Haney-Jardine……….Natasha/Young Dahlia
Debra Monk……….Young Dahlia’s Teacher
J.R. Horne……….Man in Train
Elina LÃƒÂ¶wensohn……….Dahlia’s Mother
Warren Belle……….UPS Man
When it comes to horror movies, inspiration has been a bit lacking from the West. In an era of remakes, sequels and prequels the horror genre has been lacking anything that doesn’t have roots in a prior movie. And with the success of movies such as The Ring and The Grudge American filmmakers are now beginning to adapt Japanese material to an American audience, as the East seems to have become a new hotbed for source material for an industry that seems to have run out of original ideas across the board. And to go with this foreign source material a pretty face to go along with it; The Ring and its sequel had Naomi Watts and The Grudge had Sarah Michelle Gellar. Dark Water, the latest Japanese film to be reworked for the American audience, has Jennifer Connelly as its’ main attraction.
Unlike Watts and Gellar, Connelly isn’t just another pretty face. The 2001 Best Supporting Actress Academy Award winner for A Beautiful Mind, Connelly has portrayed a variety of roles over the years from Bruce Banner’s love interest Betty Ross in The Hulk to the sexually experimental Taryn in Higher Learning. She has shown that she has the acting depth that many of her contemporaries don’t.
Now she steps into the shoes of Dahlia, a woman in a bitter child custody case over her daughter Ceci (Ariel Gade). Holing up in a run down tenement during her separation, Dahlia’s life is in a bit of a personal craziness. She has a new job, a new home and a new life. And meeting Mr. Murray (John C. Reilly) early on would almost seem like the beginning of a formulaic romantic comedy, but that is not meant to be. The line between reality and fantasy blurs inside her newfound home.
It seems to be taking on a life of its own as mysterious noises and a persistent leak of dark water come from above her, as the water stains the bedroom ceiling underneath the room her and her daughter share. Her imagination begins to run wild as a result of all of this. As she is unable to distinguish between reality and fantasy, Dahlia’s world slowly starts to fall apart as the question of haunting ghosts and mental sanity all come in to play. And for what starts out to be an interesting story delves into a boring and predictable attempt at a scary movie thriller that is bereft of both scares and thrills.
Dark Water has one main fault and that it seeks to be unpredictable with its scares and its plot twists but at the same time it is so unpredictable that it becomes easy to see where the next twist is going to be. Everything that happens as the movie goes forward takes such an obviously different turn that any sort of shock is missing after the third time it happens. The key to shock with a plot twist is that it deviates from where the movie is expected to go, but the effectiveness hinges on when it’s used. Normally one or two plot twists is enough to jar the senses, and Walter Salles seems to think that the more twists there are the more people will realize that Dark Water is missing more than just a bit of normalcy.
And you can’t blame the actors for what they’re dealt with. Connelly is quite talented and brings a lot of depth to her character but at the same time the absolute lunacy of the plot take so much away from the people involved in it. Dahlia isn’t a well-written character and it is obvious from the beginning her character arc isn’t well plotted; the emphasis is so heavily focused on what is actually happening, as opposed to how she’s dealing with it. Salles spends more time trying to show off the water effects and camera angles than he does trying to make his lead characters more sympathetic or even well-developed. There is too much of a focus on the water itself when there isn’t a predictable scare to be had.
The water effects are amusing at points but they overwhelm both the characters and the movie. And it isn’t like these are spectacular effects or even merely good ones. The water looks like Diet RC Cola and has all the scaring power contained therein.
What is even less scary are the slight of hand camera shots that Salles uses in order to get a cheap scare. Much like the plot twists, hackneyed and predictable camera shots seem to be the flavor of this H2O.