"She’s lost, Mommy. Like you." — Ceci
First, there was The
Ring, which had poor soggy Samara who drowned in the well without a
nearby collie to go get help. Then there was The
Grudge, where another ghost had died in the tub. In the third American
adaptation of a Japanese horror flick, Dark Water, we have creepy leaks
in the roof and flooded apartments. Apparently, the Japanese have issues with
the wet stuff.
So here’s the skinny. Dark Water is the story of Dahlia (Jennifer
“Labyrinth” Connelly), and her struggle to make a life
for herself and her daughter Ceci (Ariel Gade). Dahlia, you see, is having a
very rough time lately, which we discover is nothing new as the film progresses.
Dahlia has just divorced her husband Kyle (Dougray “MI:2”
Scott), has no job and is searching for someplace to live with her daughter.
She also has powerful migraines, and her husband accuses her of being a hallucinating
If that wasn’t bad enough, her husband is also fighting for full custody
of Ceci. He uses the migraines and her supposed paranoia to support his position,
along with the fact he has a well-paying job and a new home in Jersey City.
All this stress, plus the mention of her supposed paranoia, sets up the inevitable
“it’s all in her head” possibility that some horror films
like to put in place, but few ever use as the “truth.”
Desperate to find a home in New York that she can afford, Dahlia heads to Roosevelt
Island to check out a run-down ten-story apartment building. There, she looks
at a small two-bedroom place on the ninth floor.
While the place does have problems, like seemingly nice but actually scummy
landlord Mr. Murray (John “Chicago” C. Riley), creepy maintenance
guy Veeck (Pete “Unusual Suspects” Postlethwaite), some teen
hoodlums, and a leak in the roof from all the rain, at least it’s within
her price range.
Speaking of the rain, there is a lot of it. It rains through just about the
Once Dahlia and Ceci move in, the creepiness begins.
There are bumps in the upstairs apartment that is supposed to be empty, Ceci
picks up a new imaginary friend, strange things come out of the faucets, and
of course there’s that water dripping through the ceiling. Dark water.
This all leads Dahlia down the path to discover the truth about the apartment
upstairs, confront her own damaged childhood, and reach a final confrontation
that is quite intense. The problem is getting to said confrontation.
There are some great parts to this film. The mood is very evocative. There
is so much water all over the place that I thought I was going to get prune
If it’s not raining, the sky is that grey where you know it’s just
about to burst, and the streets are constantly wet. There are flooded apartments,
leaky laundry rooms; the building is in the middle of an island with a water
tower on the roof. Water, water everywhere, some of it to drink. With all the
water, and the grey, muted color palate, and the score, the movie has a great
The performances are excellent, as you would expect from Oscar-winner and genre
fan favorite Connelly, who does a great job with the slide from stressed-out
mom to possibly crazy hallucinating mom. She’s also well supported by
experienced character actors like Riley and Postlethwaite who hit all the right
notes with their characters. Gade is convincing as Ceci, and while not as good
as Dakota "War of the Worlds" Fanning, she’s not nearly
as creepy. There’s also a great performance from Tim “Pulp Fiction”
Roth as Jeff Platzer, Dahlia’s divorce lawyer.
There's a downside to this movie, however, and it's a big one. Dark Water
is slow. I mean dripping faucet in the middle of the night slow. Shyamalan
slow. The movie is just over an hour and a half, but it feels like three because
it takes so long getting anywhere. The performances are enough to keep you engaged,
but the fillm is so slow it's almost tedious waiting for the scares. The slowness
isn’t in the character development scenes; the cast keeps those flowing
and interesting. It’s in all the set-ups to the scares and development
scenes. There are far too many long, slow looks at the building, the rainy city,
and the characters silently walking around. Some of this is good for mood, but
it swiftly reaches the point where you want to grab the editor and tell him
to get on with it.
In the end, the performances are well done and the story is good, if familiar.
Dark Water was written by Koki Suzuki, who also wrote The
Ring and Ring
Two. It has that same creepy feeling, and very similar tropes, but
it just isn’t as scary. It is a decent film, but I’d wait for a
second-run house or DVD.