Water A’int Scary

by Alan Rapp on July 8, 2005

in Uncategorized

Great horror movies keep an audience on the edge of their seat, engaged, wondering what could possibly happen next.  Good horror movies keep you interested through bizarre plot twists, gruesome death scenes, and lots of blood.  This movie made me want to pee.

Dark Water
1 & 1/2 Stars

Great horror movies keep an audience on the edge of their seat, engaged, wondering what could possibly happen next.  Good horror movies keep you interested through bizarre plot twists, gruesome death scenes, and lots of blood.  This movie made me want to pee.  Dark Water is the latest Japanese horror movie to be remade by Hollywood.  I have never seen the original Honogurai mizu no soko kara, but I will assume it was better than this.  It’s really quite a shame considering how much this movie had going for it that the end result is a tangled ball of missed opportunities.

In the midst of a messy divorce and custody battle, Dahlia (Jennifer Connelly) moves with her daughter Ceci (Ariel Gade) to a rather strange apartment building owned by Mr. Murray (John C. Reilly).  The building appears relatively old and rundown, and the caretaker of the place Veek (Pete Postlethwaite) tries to keep everything working while blaming any accidents on a pair of kids who live on the tenth floor.  There’s also a strange stain in the corner of the bedroom ceiling that seems to fascinate Ceci.  Immediately after moving in odd occurences start to happen.  The numbered buttons for the elevator are burnt off and the elevator that often has a small wet spot in the corner likes to move to the top floor all on its own.  Dahlia’s ceiling begins to leak, Ceci begins to be talking to an imaginary friend with the same name as the girl who once lived in the upstairs apartment and makes her do bad things.  Dahlia ‘s life quickly begins to fray as she can’t get anyone to take care of the leak in the apartment, which is caused by all the faucets in the room above hers being turned on, her husband is suing her and citing examples of her unfitness as a parent, and Ceci starting to have episodes at school.

Sounds kinda’ interesting,right?  Well, it’s sad because it really could have been.  All the elements are here for a very tight intriguing psychological drama, but the movie decides early on that it would prefer to be your standard run of the mill Hollywood ghost story.  Very early we see Ceci talking to our ghost and we hear the ghost talking back.  This really takes the wind out of the sails as they keep playing the “is she crazy” storyline even though they have already told us there is a ghost.  The problem is the psychological parts work far better than the ghost scenes.  If you are going to do a ghost movie in the horror realm, which this movie claims to do, then you have to have a scary ghost.  A little girl who starts water leaks around the building isn’t too scary to me.  Nothing that happens justifies the effect it has on Dahlia so they had to write in a back story halfway through the film about her being abused and abandoned by her parents.  I guess this is supposed to explain why all these inconveniences scare her when they wouldn’t scare a four year-old child, but I’m sorry I couldn’t buy it.  Water just isn’t scary.  The big special effects sequences are far from impressive.  We get water running down floors, water dripping, water shooting through pipes, water shooting out of sinks and toilets, and water running down walls.  I’ve seen effects on Sesame Street that are scarier, and more impressive.  An odd note, most of the water is a very dark color almost like blood which is a nice touch, but is wasted because no one in the movie, even though it is everywhere, seems to notice or comment.

So they abandon the suspense angle early on, the horror angle never pans out, is there anything that works in this movie?  Well yes, it does have some nice performances.  Reilly is very good as the apartment owner/slum lord who resembles more of a used car salesman.  There are good performances by the Ariel Gade as the child and Tim Roth, who has a very interesting turn as Dahlia’s lawyer who works out of his SUV.  Connelly is very good in the opening quarter of the movie, but her performance becomes strictly one note as the odd occurences begin, which isn’t helped by the script calling for her to self medicate herself continuously through the end of the movie.  Postlethwaite’s character never really is defined.  He’s either the mean and creepy old guy who lives in the basement, or he’s a nice guy who fixes problems for the tenants, depending on the scene.  Dougray Scott is fine as the ex-husband, though he’s a little too nice and concerned for us to understand Dahlia’s anger at him.  Camyrn Manheim has a nice role as Ceci’s teacher, but there’s really not much for her to do in the movie other then tell Dahlia something might be wrong with her daughter.  The apartment building is very strange, but never really scary.  The director never takes advantage of play on the oddness of the surroundings.  In addition, it does seem rather empty.  We only see three other tenants from the building throughout the entire movie, Veek’s two michievious teenagers who could have been much creepier, and a man Dahlia meets on the elevator.  Considering the huge building and Murray’s need to sell apartments fast, fast, fast this doesn’t seem to make much sense.  The director might have been going for a ghost town feel, but we are told and shown that this is a thriving town with one of the best schools in the nation.  Maybe the studio ran out of money and couldn’t hire any more extras.

This movie just doesn’t work.  I could see what the director and the writer were going for in different scenes, but the choices they make never pan out.  To give you an example, without explaining too much, the last scenes in the movie are supposed to be moving.  I laughed out loud.  The ending doesn’t seem to translate well, while it might work well in the Japanese version, here it just looks contrived.  The opening sequence with Dahlia as a little girl, which we see again and again in flashbacks, does nothing to add weight to the character or the storyline.  The movie is beset with countless boneheaded decisions are made simply because of the need to advance another ghost scene in the plot.  The movie wastes a great cast and a very intriguing set up for a psychological drama for what amounts to a pretty lame ghost movie.  If you want to see a good suspenseful movie about a kid that talks to dead people I’d recommend you go out and rent M. Night Shyamalan’s The Sixth Sense, unless water scares you.

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