Dahlia Williams (Jennifer Connelly)'s strained separation from her husband (Dougray Scott) disintegrates into a bitter custody battle. When she finds a dilapidated apartment on New York's Roosevelt Island for herself and young daughter Ceci (Ariel Gade), it, too, becomes a battle as the ceiling leeks, noises from above and disturbing events in general set her on edge. Ceci's new imaginary friend adds to Dahlia's woes, and when things get nasty in the custody battle, she gets herself a lawyer (Tim Roth). But the mysterious leaks of dark water continue, and Ceci's invisible friend, Natasha, becomes quite persistent.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
A top drawer cast working with a bottom drawer screenplay confirms my distaste for Japanese 'girl, long black hair and water' horror movies. Dark Water is an English language remake of a Japanese film (2002) which was an adaptation of a Japanese novel. Maybe it works as a novel. If you've seen any of Koji Suzuki and Hideo Nakata's Ringu (1998), you'll be familiar with the essential elements: a deepish water container (instead of a well, here it's a water tower on top of an apartment building), long straight, black hair, and a little girl who has suffered some past trauma and now wants to do something about it.
Adding complexity to the premise is the subplot of a mother in the midst of a marriage break up. This device is used to extend the emotional tension when hubby throws accusations about her mental state into the ring. The way he puts it, he has a point.
Production design is a tad too obvious for me: the incessant rain and grey skies (with matching drab wardrobe) batter us into a gloomy mood, right up to the final sequence when things appear to have been resolved, and it's sunny. (Wardrobe lifts, too.)
As usual in horror films, the central characters are shown to make some basic errors of judgement. In this case not only the mother and daughter at the centre of the horror, but real estate agent (John C. Reilly) and apartment block supervisor (Pete Postlethwaite) all ignore the fact that the leaking water - which sometimes becomes a torrent flushing from toilets and bathroom taps, even washing machines - is the colour of well brewed coffee. This sort of oversight takes me right out of the film, and in this case, I never managed to get back in.
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DARK WATER (M)
CAST: Jennifer Connelly, Ariel Gade, John C. Reilly, Tim Roth, Pete Postlethwaite, Dougray Scott, Ariel Gade
PRODUCER: Doug Davison, Roy Lee, Bill Mechanic
DIRECTOR: Walter Salles
SCRIPT: Rafael Iglesias
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Affonso Beato
EDITOR: Daniel Rezende
MUSIC: Angelo Badalamenti
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Therese DePrez
RUNNING TIME: 105 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: BVHE
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: February 22, 2006