Publicity Stills of "Dark Water"
(Courtesy from BVI)

Genre: Horror/Thriller
Director: Walter Salles
Starring: Jennifer Connelly, John C. Reilly, Tim Roth, Dougray Scott, Pete Postlethwaite, Camryn Manheim
RunTime: 1 hr 45 mins
Released By: BVI
Rating: PG

Opening Day: 29 September 2005

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Synopsis :

Acclaimed director Walter Salles (“Central Station,” “The Motorcycle Diaries”) helms and Academy Award®-winner Jennifer Connelly stars in DARK WATER, a psychological thriller featuring a stellar cast, including Academy Award®-nominees John C. Reilly, Tim Roth, and Pete Postlethwaite, as well as Dougray Scott and newcomer Ariel Gade. Based on a film by the creators of the Japanese version of “The Ring” comes this haunting, chilling film about a young mother who goes to extreme lengths to solve a mystery and protect her daughter. Dahlia Williams (JENNIFER CONNELLY) is starting a new life; newly separated with a new job and a new apartment, she’s determined to put her relationship with her estranged husband behind her and devote herself to raising her daughter, Ceci. But when the strained separation disintegrates into a bitter custody battle, her situation takes a turn for the worse. Her new apartment – dilapidated, cramped, and worn – seems to take on a life of its own. Mysterious noises, persistent leaks of dark water, and strange happenings cause her imagination to run wild, sending her on a puzzling and mystifying pursuit to find out who is behind the endless mind games. As Dahlia frantically searches for the links between the riddles, the dark water seems to close around her. But one thing trumps all others in Dahlia’s world: no matter what it is that’s out there, she’ll stop at nothing to find it.

Movie Review:

Maternal love is a beautiful theme to imbue in a film. We have all seen it before, one way or another. It can found in the main plot for some films, while lingering in the backdrop as a sub-plot in others. This is what makes Koji Suzuki’s novel (on which “Dark Water” is based) so powerfully intriguing. But Koji’s novel brings the tale further by focusing on maternal love that transcends even time, a love so potent that it continues after death.

After a remarkable hit with The Motorcycle Diaries (a film based on the life of revolutionary leader Che Guevara), director Walter Salles never loses his momentum. He continues with this remake from Hideo Nakata’s similarly-titled film with an ensemble of all-star cast that includes Jennifer Connelly (“The Hulk”, “A Beautiful Mind”, “The House of Sand and Fog”), Tim Roth (“Rob Roy”, “Pulp Fiction”) and John C. Reilly (“The Aviator”, “The Hours”).

Dahlia (Jennifer Connelly) is an estranged housewife who is divorcing her husband. Deciding to leave her tortured childhood and marriage behind, she left for another city with her daughter Ceci (Ariel Gade) in the middle of a court custody battle and settled for a secluded unit in the suburbs. While things almost go back to normality (sans her husband), strange things start to happen.

Director Walter definitely scores with its narrative conflict between Dahlia and her husband as well as her hopelessness in escaping from her sad past. He has also selected the perfect backdrop for a horror movie to be in. From the seedy passageway to the watery corridors to alluring darkness, this film never ceases to try to be believable.

And there’s the characterisation. Each character is given sufficient screen time to allow their personality to shine through. Jennifer is believable as the bitter mum who feels that she has the right to earn the custody of her child. Ceci’s remarkable performance (despite her age) as a child haunted by a malevolent spirit is also commendable and deserves a pat on the back. But it’s Pete Postlethwaite that is the most interesting character to watch, the insipid albeit sinister guard-cum-janitor-cum plumber who will send a cold chill to your spine whenever he speaks.

This film is so believably human that audiences will fall in love with it. This is its strength but also its weakness. With the emphasis on characterisation, the director has loses sight of which genre this film falls in. In the process of making the audience give a standing ovation to the strength and resilience of Dahlia, the director has failed to make the audience tremble, which is what a horror film is all about. This misstep by the director is a crucial one, causing this film to pale in comparison with Hideo Nakata’s original piece of work.

While the original shocks global audiences with unique cinematic angles, corner shots and the distinctive use of the water elements, this film’s attempts to effect the same reactions in the audience failed miserably, and drowned with the inclusion of characterisation. This further attest to the fact that characterisation and horror films are mutually exclusive.

This film is best suited for audiences who has not watched Hideo Nakata’s original film, as director Walter Salles has almost emulated the scenes from the original to perfection. He simply increases the focus on characterisation, lengthens the screen time of Dahlia’s husband and inserted Dahlia’s neglected past.

Nevertheless, for fans of Hideo Nakata who have caught the original, no worries there. Catching this film will be a refreshing break from the series of blockbusters currently being churned out from Hollywood. It’s been sometime (excluding the recent Korean horror flick “Ghost Train”) since a film has been produced that is a hybridisation of horror and social drama.

And here’s a spoiler. It’s also a distinct, standalone film (other than its Japanese original) whereby the protagonist both protect her loved ones as well as giving love to the deprived.

“A beautifully-crafted film” will be a good term to describe it.

For a horror film, it’s such an irony.

Movie Rating:

(A never-tested-before concept that is a Social-Drama horror film. One of a kind!)

Review by Patrick Tay

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