Dark Water (2005)
(Release Date: July 8, 2005)

1/2

A Dark Retread, almost a total washout!

J.C. Mašek III
The World's Greatest Critic!



K˘ji Suzuki is the Japanese novelist who brought us Ringu, which, of course, spawned Ring Virus and The Ring along with all their various and sundry sequels and imitators. It's the riveting and frightening story of the ghost of a drowned young girl, filled with vengeance, who terrorizes the living and shares her horror with her victims. Dark Water is the second adaptation of his novel Honogurai Mizu No Soko Kara which... frankly, makes one wonder if Suzuki ever had more than that one idea.

Now, to be fair, unlike the Ringu movies, I didn't watch all of the Japanese predecessors to this film, nor have I read the novel this is based on. Who knows, maybe it's Hideo Nakata who needs the originality infusion.

Regardless of where the derivation grew from Walter Salles' American Version (working from the Rafael Yglesias-adapted screenplay) not only says Ringu to me, but actually chants it, marches on Washington with it and creates a series of Folk Songs retelling its story over and over again, and a little dance to go with it. Folks, the story ain't new!

In fact Dark Water gives me the shaky mental image of Suzuki feeling the pressure from his publishing house for a new thriller. I then imagine him popping open the laptop and opening the Word Document housing Ringu and hitting CTRL+H for a quick "Find and Replace", exchanging "Rural Farm" with "Urban Apartment Complex"; "Video Tape" with "Bathtub and Commode"; "Wishing Well" with "Water Tower"; and "Drowned Young Female Ghost" with... Oh, wait, he left that the same.

Don't believe me? Here's the plot: A young journalist (Jennifer Connelly's Dahlia) is estranged from the father of her child. Dahlia and the kiddo (Ariel Gade's Ceci) then move together into a new apartment! Everything seems fine until the whole place starts falling apart like a macrocosm of the plot. Soon the ghost of a young girl begins to infiltrate their tiny lives, completely obsessed with young Ceci, and possibly poised to possess her so that she can have a Mommy!

Along the way, many terrible revelations occur about her bad parents and the tragedy that surrounded her young life, even to the point that Dahlia enters into the dead girl's world through a dream sequence and emerges more knowledgeable about her plot.

At about this point I predicted the rest of the movie, and you can too. Needless to say there will be lots of floating hair, ghostly faces and near shocks. I actually started getting bored and picturing the whole thing as a Musical! Ah? AAAAAAAAAH? Bear with me here...

"Hello, Dahlia! Hello, Dahlia! It's so good to have you back where you belong! I'm a Ghost, Dahlia! What I want the Most, Dahlia is to keep you in my world and make you Mom!"

No? Look, funny reviews are all I do, Folks! This is it, I don't dance!

Any damned way, to make her presence known, instead of popping out of a TV Screen, our girl floods her apartment with obsidian colored h2o, which is considerably more annoying than scary.

And that is the most empathic thing about this whole movie. At no point is this truly scary, not even the cheap Hollywood tricks of slow buildup before something jumps at you. The film is predictable and unsuccessful in its execution. However, I really, really, really felt for Connelly in her frustration over her apartment falling into more pieces than that house Tom Hanks and Shelley Long bought back in the '80's! Black potty water soaks through the ceiling. Black potty water gets into the laundry. Black potty water in the kitchen sink. Even black potty water in the potty. And no matter how many times it gets fixed, it comes back nastier than a 2 Live Crew lyric book! Between that, latently homosexual teenagers in the building, a distracted apartment manager and an apathetic superintendent, I'm surprised Dahlia didn't take a header off the roof like Greg Louganis after a tab of Ell-Ess-Dee! Ghosts I can deal with. Shoddy maintenance drives me bonkers, boys!

Dark Water is a slow-paced and somewhat atmospheric thriller filled with only the most muted of colors, enhancing the darkness of the omnipresent flood. The film succeeds as a time-passer and is rewarding mostly in its acting. Jennifer Connelly is good, as always, but spends more time collapsed in weepy defeat than she does earning that Oscar. It's great fun to see John C. Reilly and Pete Postlethwaite as the two clowns who run the drenched tenement Dahlia finds herself in. But since Pete is irritated that he's in this movie and plays an irritable guy, and since Reilly is distracted in his acting and plays a very distracted guy, it's hard to say they really add much more than their names here. Most of the same can be said for Dougray Scott and Camryn Manheim whose presences add up to either someone saying "Dude, was that Dougray Scott and Camryn Manheim?" or someone saying "Dude, aren't those two friends of my Dad's?"

However, the most rewarding casting choice here is Tim Roth as Yank Lawyer Jeff Platzer (as unrecognizable here as he was as a Chimp in that Burton Flick). He's damned good and portrays an American better now than he did in Reservoir Dogs! Well, him and fellow Tarantino Alumnus Perla Haney-Jardine, who played B.B. in Kill Bill. You know that kid who lost her mommy and was living with a lunatic of a daddy? Here she plays Natasha who... lost her mommy and is living... okay, the whole thing's derivative, isn't it?!?! Damn! She even bears enough of a resemblance to Daveigh Chase that it makes you wonder if the casting agent had a day off and some intern took care of this part.

("Hello, Dahlia! Hello, Dahlia!"... it's stuck in my head!) Dark Water gets Two and a Half stars out of Five (though I admit, I debated on that "half"). It's not that it's all that bad, it's just that it doesn't go anywhere... at least nowhere you haven't already been. Hell, about the time Ceci lost control of her artwork, I realized the plot stopped even trying! It couldn't have been more like The Ring if Cameras started distorting faces or some horse committed suicide. Fie on't! Fie! This had all the ingredients of a hit, but the soufflÚ fell flatter than Bizarro-World Britney Spears. It's an A-Movie that just ends up failing, especially when the ending pops on screen, insults your intelligence in a manner more profane than Dave Chappelle, then runs and hides. On the bright side, Jennifer Connelly IS in it. You won't hate it, you won't love it! Fie! Fie! (sigh) I'm going to stop now and say g'day to you. I've been drinking this glass of icewater and it looks a little funny. Smells like Teen Spirit, too.

It's dark, it's flowing, it's evil...
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Dark Water (2005) Reviewed by J.C. Mašek III who is solely responsible for his own reviews and also for the fact that he gets all his water Bottled!
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Yes, Jennifer Connelly STILL has it goin' on, no?

You could see the end of Skeleton Key coming easier than Peter North!
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