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USA 2005
Directed by
Walter Salles
109 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

Dark Water

Many people are going to wonder why this film, which is for the most part a gripping psychological thriller, chooses to segue pointlessly into standard horror flick tosh in its final stages.

Based on the film, Honogurai Mizu No Soko Kara (English title Dark Water) by Hideo Nakata, director of the famous Ring trilogy, and the book by the writer of the source of those films, Ringu), the script by Rafael Yglesias transposes the story to Roosevelt Island, a particularly ugly part of New York City that I have not seen on screen before. It is almost permanently raining, water being a motif used extensively throughout the film in various forms. Single mother, Dahlia (Jennifer Connelly), is fighting a nasty custody battle with her ex-husband. With a small budget she and her young daughter, move into a low rent ninth-floor apartment and the trouble begins. 

The film impressively plays Dahlia’s over-wrought mental state against the intimidating realities of her shabby environment. Although for such a drabness too alluring by half, Connelly is excellent in the lead, bringing just the right mix of emotional estrangement and pragmatic determination to keep the “is she/isn’t she imagining this” question burning. With a tremendous support cast including an also outstanding Ariel Gade as the daughter, John C. Reilly, Pete Postlethwaite and a scene-stealing performance by Tim Roth along with a top-notch creative team including music by Angelo Badalamenti and photography by Affonso Beato, not to forget in the director's chair Salles himself, this is highly effective stuff with everything working together to intrigue rather than scare the audience.

Then, when all seems resolved, albeit a little too cheesily, comes a completely unnecessary suite of familiar supernatural horror tropes that only lack the car-departing child’s pupils turning red, undoing the strengths of what has gone before but adding nothing in their place.




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