Film reviews

Dark Water, Dir; Walter Salles, Cert; 15

A recently separated single mother, Dahlia (Jennifer Connelly), moves into an affordable new apartment with her 6 year old daughter, Ceci (Ariel Gade), and weird things start happening (all given perfectly rational explanations, of course). 
You may be able to tell from my brief opening synopsis that I didn’t think much of this film.  Comparisons to The Ring (Gore Verbinski, 2002) are inevitable – both are American remakes of Japanese films based on novels by the same author (KÔji Suzuki).  However, while The Ring was remade well for a Western audience, Dark Water was not.  How much of this is down to the quality of the remake, and how much of it is due to the source, I can’t comment, having neither read the novel nor seen the Japanese film.  What I do know is that the story is weak and not at all original, and I suspect this is the same in the original film and novel.  However, the source material was chosen to be remade - a bad choice maybe, but this is no excuse for the very poor film I sat through.
The implausible decision by Dahlia to buy the apartment near the start of the film was the first strong hint for me that Dark Water would be a disappointing film.  It got worse from there in.  At 105 minutes it’s a fairly average length film, but a lot of scenes were totally unnecessary and the running time could’ve been much shorter.  The job interview scene is short, but also pointless.  The scene with the night watchman in the apartment block is also short, but also pointless.  The subplot that never develops regarding Dahlia’s lawyer, Jeff Platzer (Sean Penn), and his made-up family is also pointless.  Another sub-plot that hints that Dahlia’s ex-husband, Kyle (Dougray Scott), may be trying to make Dahlia uncomfortable in her new home is also unnecessary.  There’s more, but I think you get the point.  What I saw in Dark Water was a good premise for a short film, but, in making it into a feature film, scenes and subplots have been added which serve no purpose but to bulk up the running time and ruin the story.
In any horror film of this type (i.e. supernatural), there are always one or two people who offer ‘reasons’ for why things are happening (think of the doctors in The Exorcist (William Friedkin, 1973) or the “I must have been seeing things” line uttered by many characters in many films) before the true horror is revealed.  In Dark Water there’s so many ‘reasons’ offered that it could become a drinking game.  I spent most of the film waiting for the ‘reasons’ to end and the film to get going, but it never happens.  The climax to the film came as a relief rather than a shock and the one ‘jump’ moment Dark Water offers is so conspicuous in the build up to it that had I seen anyone jump it would have been my duty to point and laugh.
I don’t want to spend the entire review slating the film, so I’m going to say something positive.  The acting was fine.  The cast are not to blame for this mess.  There you are.
Japanese horror often offers something different to normal, and the American version of The Ring showed the stories could work in mainstream films, so I was hopeful before watching Dark Water that it would be a good film.  I was wrong.  Mostly pointless, and entirely boring, Dark Water is not a film I’d recommend. 2/10

Andy Ingram

Odeon Online


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