Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Movie Appraisal: Dark Water (2005)

Some remakes are really good, while others simply aren't. While the remake of the earlier Japanese film Ringu made quite the impression as the American The Ring and was largely praised as both a good movie and horror movie alike, Dark Water has a very dubious distinction of being a remake of a Japanese film that really didn't live up to expectations. I'm going to say before I start that the premise of the film is not incredibly interesting to me, and while I've never seen the Japanese version, I kind of expect I would not like it bsed off of the story itself. So, while this American version may still be bad, I do seem to have a bias against the story of this movie as a whole.

I think that the acting of the movie is mostly subpar, despite some of the really great actors in it. I've really liked Jennifer Connelly in other movies, granted movies that involve a much younger version of her, but still... Pete Postlethwaite and John C. Reilly also have oddly flat performances despite both of them being superb actors in other films. I almost have to believe that the direction of the film has something to do with it... or something. I mean, sometimes the acting is almost wince-worthy. And that certainly cannot be a positive remark. I will say that the second half of the movie does seem to pick up both in acting and in the emotional intensity, but the first half is still so very bland. I will also admit that Tim Roth's performance as Dahlia's lawyer, Jeff Platzer, is absolutely fantastic throughout. When he blows off talking with Dahlia (Jennifer Connelly) to go and watch a movie by himself in a nearly empty theatre, it is a thing of absolutely beauty.

The premise of the film is that a woman, Dahlia, is going through a nasty custody battle with her ex-husband, Kyle (Dougray Scott). As the battle intensifies, Dahlia seems to be having very strange nightmares and visions all involving... wait for it... wait for it........... dark water. Well, this dark water seems to have something to do with the apartment above Dahlia's own, a missing little girl, and a whole lot of very odd mischief. A great deal of the movie is very Japanese, with few scares and a much greater build-up of tension.  It is incredibly reminiscent of The Ring, both is story matters, persistent rain, and a little girl, who is almost seemingly malicious, dying in water. In the same way the movie also follows a similar climax and denouement to The Ring, solving the major plot points a good while before the movie ends. And there is a fairly dark ending here, one that is decent enough not to spoil.

It took me a while to warm to this movie. I don't think it is a great film, and I certainly don't feel that it is scary in the least bit, but it does work if you can get invested in it, something that I simply couldn't do. I don't know if it was because I couldn't relate to any of the characters except Jeff Platzer, who I thought was the only really likable character besides maybe possibly the kid and maybe Dahlia if you can relate to her. I certainly couldn't. I haven't seen the original Japanese version, and I do feel that this puts me at a disadvantage in reviewing this film. I'll check it out eventually and give a comparative review, but right now this movie seems only mediocre to me and incredibly subpar when compared to The Ring.

The imagery can sometimes be pretty good, but often does not feel much like a horror movie. I mean the dark water from the title is pretty well done and also so incredibly Japanese is style that it's kind of conventional in some ways. Also, damn it, little girls are not scary. I found myself laughing at the ridiculousness of this little girl being intimidating. Maybe it's just me, but although the second half of the movie is mostly pretty good, the ending was actually kind of painful to watch and left quite a bad taste in my mouth. I mean, I'm sorry, but I shouldn't be rolling my eyes throughout the ending, sighing, and wishing, almost hoping, it would just end without all of the stupidity. It didn't thought. It ended both painfully and so melodramatically that I wanted to scream at the movie itself to not do what I knew it was going to do.

I will say I do like the constant rain imagery throughout the film, but I liked that in The Ring too. I thought it was much more effective in that movie though. I guess altogether this movie can be seen as a ghost movie, certainly, very Japanese in style, but as a bit of a movie about the paranoid delusions of a woman under a lot of strain. The subtlety of the film was lost to me though. It seemed incredibly heavy-handed at times, and just didn't do it for me. I wish the movie was about the adventures of Tim Roth as Jeff Platzer in a ghost movie instead... but no. No such luck.

I wouldn't recommend this film to anybody. I mean, I guess if you're really hardcore into ghost stories with a Japanese twist, go ahead and watch it maybe? Although I'd almost guarantee that the Japanese version is better even though I've never seen it. So, I'm simply going to shrug and tell anybody reading this review to avoid it.

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