All Reviews, Drama, Horror

Dark Water (2005)

“Some mysteries were never meant to be solved.”

Just for the record, I’m not against American remakes of foreign films per se; I think some fine versions of such movies have been made in the past. I enjoyed the American remakes of “The Ring” and ”The Grudge” for example. However I cannot, for the life of me, understand why this film, “Dark Water,” was remade.

Picture this scenario. The setting: an American studio. Some bigwig walks into a room full of suits and says “I’ve just seen this phenomenal Japanese horror movie. Let’s remake it for American audiences, but let’s change everything! For example, let’s throw in direct lifts from “The Amityville Horror,” “The Ring Two,” and the original “Ring” film.” Regardless of what the point in such a film would be, it describes this version of “Dark Water” perfectly. I’ve just saved you eight bucks.

“Dark Water” tells the story of a woman (Dahlia, played by a subdued Jennifer Connelly) who is in the middle of a custody battle over her little girl. Together, mother and daughter move into a new apartment that has serious plumbing problems, as well as some noisy upstairs neighbors who may or may not be alive. See, Dahlia is apparently mentally unstable. She pops so many psychotropic pills I kept expecting Tom Cruise to pop in from “The War of the Worlds” (playing in the theater next door) to lecture her.

Along for the ride are two expanded characters played by John C. Reilly and Pete Postlethwaite.

What can I say? The film is a muddled mess, filled with non-sequiturs that are (in an unusual twist) actually better explained in the Japanese original! All the poignancy exhibited in the original has been completely stripped away in this version. A life-changing choice made by a character in the first version has been forced upon that person’s American counterpart, and the meaning has been removed from what may be the story’s key scene.

The film ultimately fails though for two reasons. First, setting it in America works against it. The Japanese society is still male driven; thus, an American protagonist’s struggle to keep her daughter doesn’t have that same sense of quiet desperation that added a layer to the original film. Custody battles are the norm here, and the one depicted in the Japanese version was much more vicious.

Second, Hideo Nakata’s “Dark Water” focused much of the apartment’s strange goings-on from the unique viewpoint of the little girl, whereas this version ignores that in favor of scaring Jennifer Connelly. It doesn’t work. The last two scenes manage to brilliantly capture the flavor of the original in this way, but they come far too late to matter. On the plus side, they made my son and I want to watch the original again, and we did so as soon as we came home.

There’s much more I could say about the remake of “Dark Water,” but instead I’ll just recommend it to people who didn’t like the original. Otherwise, you’ve seen it all before in other movies but, oddly, not in the film on which it’s based. “Some mysteries were never meant to be solved,” indeed.

Pros: An unrecognizable Tim Roth as Connelly’s attorney.
Cons: Why take a film regarded as a classic and change it this much? There’s the possession from “Ring Two,” a defining moment from “The Ring” and “an imaginary friend from “The Amityville Horror.” None of which were in the original “Dark Water.”

Review Rating: 2 out of 5 very tense scenes were not lifted from the original, meaning you at least won’t ruin a classic film if you see this version first.

Dark Water” (2005)
105 Minutes; USA
Rated PG-13 for mature thematic material, frightening sequences, disturbing images and brief language.

Starring:
Jennifer Connelly (Dahlia)
John C. Reilly (Mr. Murray)
Tim Roth (Jeff Platzer)
Dougray Scott (Kyle)
Pete Postlethwaite (Veeck)
Camryn Manheim (Teacher)

Directed by: Walter Salles
Written by: Rafael Yglesias, based on the film by Hideo Nakata.
Viewing Format: Theatrical Release.

About John Daily

John is a freelance writer, columnist and critic. His work has appeared in print, as well as on sites such as ScifiWatch and HorrorWatch (where he wrote under the complete meaningless moniker “Bloody Taco”). An archive of his film-related material is available at cinemaspin.wordpress.com. Currently, he can be found spouting his special brand of sarcastic nonsense at CigarHell.com or Twitter (JohnNDaily).

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