A review of “Dark Water” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: ** 1/2

Rating: PG-13 for intensity and violence

Run Time: 1 hour, 42 minutes

 

 

Director Walter Salles veers sharply away from humanistic Latin fare (Central Station, The Motorcycle Diaries) into horror territory with this glossy remake of the Japanese film of the same name.

Jennifer Connelly adds class to a well-crafted but ubiquitous fright fest as new divorcee Dahlia who moves into a tenement apartment on New York’s Roosevelt Island with her precocious six-year old Cecelia (Ariel Gade).

Naturally there’s a slimy super (Pete Postlethwaite) and a glad-handling real estate agent (John C. Reilly) who insists the place just needs a fresh coat of paint.  Quick as you can spit the creepy crawlies come out to play in the guise of ominous leaks and abandoned dead children looking for new mommies.

          And there is dark water. Lots of it. Geysers flooding abandoned apartments and overflowing the plumbing.  Deluges of gloomy rain drenching the landscape. Coming to getcha.

          Water’s central conceit is its Japanese sensibility, altogether too reminiscent of The Ring, The Grudge, etc.  Portentous narrative and loads of style over substance. 

There’s nothing culture-specific about our leading lady putting into play the universally stupid moves of all horror heroines, i.e. Tippi Hedren climbing into the attic in Hitchcock’s The Birds. Entering empty rooms floating with toxic bodies and leaving a beloved child in front of a menacing and malfunctioning elevator with the words “don’t move, I’ll be right back” are just plain dopey.

          Conventions aside Water establishes a palpable sense of suspicion and dread and manages to retain it throughout. Salles’ direction is taut, the performances first-rate and the look slick sans cliché filtering or excess CGI.  

          The film’s catchy but all too convenient tagline speaks volumes: some mysteries were never meant to be solved.