Written by Rafael Yglesias
Directed by Walter Salles
Running Time: 1:43
for mature thematic material, frightening sequences,
disturbing images and brief language.
Dark Water was definitely more psychological than horror and was at times entertaining, but mostly felt slow. If not for the two lead actors and a fine supporting cast, I'm not sure I could have sat through the entire movie.
Dahlia is going through a separation from her husband, with her little daughter Ceci caught in the middle. Dahlia had a rough life growing up, with a father who wasn't around and a mother who didn't seem to care whether Dahlia lived or died. Because money is tight, Dahlia and Ceci are forced to live in a not-so-nice apartment out on Roosevelt Island, here in New York City. But something strange has happened in the building. There is a large water strain that drips into their bedroom from the apartment above, where a family used to live but has now disappeared. Or have they? The secrets that lie within the water system will end up raising hell for Dahlia and Ceci.
I didn't go into Dark Water expecting much and I didn't get much. Maybe these kinds of films aren't my 'thing' but the movie felt much too long and drawn out. Up until the last 15 minutes, there wasn't anything very scary, just very strange. The whole supernatural element didn't come out until the end, so up until then, you were left wondering what people were doing. The characters, beyond the mother and daughter, weren't very well defined, so I never got a sense of how much they knew and what their motivation was. Was the realtor just looking to sell? Was the handyman a killer or just weird? Was the attorney so bad he didn't have an office and had to work out of his car? It seemed like everyone knew something was up but didn't want to get involved. Either than or they were all just really stupid. The strangest part was when a story line was introduced but never explained. Dahlia obviously had emotional issues because of her parents, and her soon to be ex-husband apparently contracted a couple of teens to torment her. But that entire story line never played out. Did they really do anything to her? Did her husband really pay them off to make her go crazy? Why bring it up if you're not going to pay it off?
There is no question in my mind that the girl who played Ceci, relative newcomer Ariel Gade, was the star of this film. She was absolutely adorable and my biggest scare in the movie wasn't anything specific; it was that I didn't want to see this little girl get hurt. She wore her emotions on her sleeve, which isn't easy for such a young actress, and took me right along. Don't get me wrong, Jennifer Connelly is as hot as the day is long and I loved every moment she was on screen, but there wasn't a lot for her to do except look scared. It was Ceci who was the one going for the ride, seeing things that weren't there, having conversations with an 'imaginary' friend. And her last scene was so heartbreaking I felt like crying. The supporting cast was surprisingly strong for this kind of film. John C. Reilly, Tim Roth, Dougray Scott and Pete Postlethwaite are all well known and critically acclaimed actors so their presence made the movie stronger than it really was, even if their characters didn't always make sense.
The look and feel of the movie added to the psychological baggage. Setting it on Roosevelt Island was smart, because you had that New York attitude, but sort of off to the side. Roosevelt Island is like it's own little town, with a lot of similar looking buildings and cobblestone. And of course it gives you the ability to film on the tram that takes you from Manhattan to Roosevelt. It made the movie feel like it was set in a strange land that was 30 years behind the rest of the country. The scenery was very bare and the film degraded so it felt old. It also allowed for a few funny scenes as you had the realtor trying to sell Dahlia on the upside of what was obviously a run down apartment. A lot of the audience I was with started laughing because everything that came out of his mouth felt true. But the best scene, which I'm sure wasn't intended to be funny, but will be to a lot of New Yorkers, was when Dahlia's attorney says he thought he could get her a free year at her apartment, and she turns him down. The audience broke out laughing because here, you NEVER turn down free rent! Unfortunately, there weren't that many light moments in the movie, intentional or not, so there needed to be more of a scare factor to keep me interested. There was only one moment, which happened late in the film, that made me jump, otherwise it felt like I was waiting for the other shoe to drop. Sometimes that works, because you're on the edge of your seat, waiting eagerly for what will happen next, but sometimes, like in this movie, it made me bored.
THE BOTTOM LINE
So overall, I thought Dark Water was just so-so. The actors were easily the highlight, while the story wasn't anything special. It took me a little while to understand the ending and while I appreciate it more now that I understand it, it doesn't make the movie any more entertaining. If you're looking for a good scare, go elsewhere. If you're looking for a psychological thriller than doesn't thrill, then this is your movie.
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