Rating: * * 1/2 (out of 4)
THOSE who have seen the 2002 Japanese original by Hideo Nakata and Taka Ichise may find this remake rather slow and taxing. However, if you are looking for a psychological thriller that makes sense, instead of just cheap jolts, this one comes pretty close.
Director Walter Salles concentrates on character portrayal and plot development instead of those 'bump-in-the-dark' scares that are not properly explained.
Also, you won't find those creaking doors or sudden jolts on the soundtrack which are a staple of B-grade horror thrillers. Still, if Salles and screenwriter Rafael Yglesias had thrown in a few good scares in the build-up, it would have made a lot of difference.
This version deals with Dahlia Williams (Jennifer Connelly of A Beautiful Mind) who has to find a new home for herself and daughter Cecilia (Ariel Gade) after splitting up with her husband Kyle (Dougray Scott).
Not being able to afford the more affluent side of the city, Dahlia has to settle for a ninth-floor unit on Roosevelt Island which is just two blocks away from a good school she has picked for Ceci. Yes, soon the creepy stuff start happening in and outside her apartment.
Instead of things going bump in the night, we get a disturbing drip-drip-drip from the ceiling. The building's handyman (Pete Postlethwaite) is not willing to fix it, claiming that it is the job for the plumber. After complaining to the building manager (John C. Reilly), Dahlia learns that the unit above hers is vacant. The leak may or may not have been caused by juvenile delinquents living in the building. And to make things worse, Ceci's teachers complain that the little girl has been talking to an imaginary friend in class...
One of the best things about Dark Water is its cast. Connelly's single mom fighting to keep her child would have single parents in the audience eating out of her hand. She has shown that she is not just a horror movie star but an actress playing a mother who is faced with horror and a nightmarish past. And then there is Ariel Gade who gives an excellent account of herself as Ceci, trying to convince everyone that her imaginary friend is not just a figment of her imagination. Why, her performance also reminds us of Dakota Fanning's in Hide And Seek. Postlethwaite provides the element of enigma as the recalcitrant caretaker, while Tim Roth has a nice cameo as Dahlia's busy divorce lawyer.
This is the first movie in English by Brazilian helmer Salles who is famous for The Motorcycle Diaries. Here, he uses water as a manifestation of evil. It is always raining on Roosevelt Island and the dark and dank building adds to the sense of gloom that pervades the movie. Salles has also changed the ending a bit but he has failed to sweep us away in the horrors of Dark Water.