out of Five
Running time: 107
A watered-down version of the Japanese original, Salles’s remake is still an enjoyable, atmospheric horror flick, with strong performances from its cast.
Dark Water (or Honogurai Mizu No Soko Kara, original title fans) is one of the best Japanese horror flicks of the last few years, so it’s no surprise that Hollywood snapped up the remake rights, particularly after the remake of The Ring proved such a huge success.
Fortunately for all concerned it’s an extremely classy production, directed by Walter “The Motorcycle Diaries” Salles and starring Jennifer Connelly alongside a supporting cast that practically screams ‘quality’. Praise is also due to whoever designed the film’s fabulous poster, because making it look like an Edward Hopper painting was a stroke of genius.
Connelly stars as Dahlia, a young woman who’s trying to restart her life after a less-than-amicable divorce from her philandering husband (Dougray Scott). Unable to afford a decent place to live, she and her young daughter Ceci (Ariel Gade) move into a dilapidated apartment, despite the ominous damp patches on the ceiling. Unsurprisingly, it’s not long before Weird Things start to happen and Dahlia finds herself questioning her own sanity. Is there something sinister about Ceci’s new-found “imaginary friend”? And just what is creepy old Pete Postlethwaite acting so shifty about?
Most of the key moments from the original film are faithfully reproduced here, from the Hello Kitty bag that keeps re-appearing every time Dahlia throws it out, to the taps inexplicably spitting out strands of thick black hair (the film’s scariest image). However, the horrific climax to the original film is distinctly diluted here, though it’s pleasing to note that the ending is more or less unchanged.
Salles creates an effectively creepy atmosphere, shooting the film in washed-out colours and ensuring that the weather is either cloudy or pissing with rain. He also makes strong use of the sound design, swamping the film with various water-based sounds as well as the array of creepy noises that the apartment makes.
Connelly is excellent as Dahlia, a woman who’s constantly fighting to maintain her sanity because she knows that if she breaks down, she’ll lose her daughter. She’s ably assisted by Ariel Gade, who gives an assured performance without straying into clichéd Creepy Kid territory. As a result, the bond between Dahlia and Ceci is genuinely convincing.
It’s fair to say that Salles has toned down the horror in favour of fleshing out the supporting characters; this paves the way for three superb performances, from Tim Roth (as Dahlia’s hastily-hired divorce lawyer, who conducts all his business from his car), John C. Reilly (as the building’s put-upon landlord) and Pete Postlethwaite as Veeck, the building’s moody, mysterious janitor.
In short, Dark Water is an effective horror flick that’s definitely worth seeing, particularly if you missed the Japanese original on its release.