Sunday, July 30, 2017

Dark Water (2005) 3 of 4

** review contains moderate spoilers **

acclimating to the new place (Jennifer Connelly) 
Dark Water came and went in theaters and merits only 5.6 on Imdb.  Maybe after The Ring and The Grudge we no longer found running water terrifying.  Maybe it got lost amid other female-led horrors (The Others, The Skeleton Key, The Orphanage, Black Swan).  Maybe it triggered premonitions of the housing collapse.  Certainly, a J-horror remake suggests more jump-scares than provided by an atmospheric, literary ghost story.

Ethereal Oscar-winner Jennifer Connelly plays the mother of a little girl, surviving acrimonious divorce from Dougray Scott.  Hard-up and emotionally raw, Connelly's character is checkmated to an (understandably) affordable high-rise on Roosevelt Island: it's not much of a spoiler that this Brutalist monstrosity is haunted.  New York City's lesser islands are useful for showing evil comfortably hidden at the heart of civilization, as in The French Connection and Don't Say a Word.

Connelly projects wary intelligence as well as anyone, and so is often cast in fantastic films: she grounds anything.  At first she assumes strange occurrences are a custody plot, but she's haunted by a familiar stranger.

As a horror film, Dark Water is more muffled than The Ring or Mama.  Child abuse is involved, but most of it off-screen.  Still I found the film difficult to watch because it's so sad.  Vulnerable mom and daughter are shunted to new, oppressive surroundings and met with coldness, despite a sympathetic lawyer played by Tim Roth (someday he'll get that American accent).  Other familiar faces: John C. Reilly, Camryn Manheim, and Pete Postlewaite).

Many of us are one paycheck away from disaster.  Dark Water is social horror, dramatizing the companion truth that for many women, a messy break-up means the same bottom line.  Brazilian director Walter Salles (The Motorcycle Diaries, On the Road) justifies this remake of the Japanese film, both based on the novel by Koji Suzuki.   

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