Movie Poster
Dark Water
Walter Salles
Jennifer Connelly, John C. Reilly, Tim Roth, Dougray Scott, Pete Postlethwaite, Camryn Manheim, Ariel Gade, Perla Haney-Jardine
105 min.


Despite being yet another unnecessary J-Horror remake, Dark Water seemed to have all the right pieces to overcome its bastard genesis. Originally adapted by Hideo Nakata (Ringu) from another Koji Suzuki (also Ringu) story, and canned for American consumption by Walter Salles, director of the generally well-respected Motorcycle Diaries, this ought to only have needed a good cast to have turned out well. But the cast is good, and it didn't. So, what was the problem?

First of all, the Japanese cultural obsession with ghosts doesn't transpose well onto the American cultural obsessions with cheap jump-scares and market-directed blandness. Hidden somewhere in the premise was an interesting movie: creepy instead of scary, by design rather than by failure. As it is, it's all tease, no delivery. Walter Salles eventually gets around to doing a good job of creating a feeling of unease, but then never once tries to do anything more with it.

The water spots in Jennifer Connelly's apartment are genuinely creepy. The ghost of the dead girl is not. The washing machine malfunctioning is creepy. The girl is not.

The movie has been carefully drained of all subtlety. The enigmatic story about water has been forgone in favor of a borderline self-plagarising story about a dead girl in a well. The characters fall into two groups. The Good Guys are defined by their problems: bad divorce, bad apartment, bad parenting. The Bad Guys are reduced to one or two defining traits: bad husband, bad father, bad landlord.

Basically, there's half an hour of interesting movie surrounded by an hour of belabored, mood-killing explanation. The movie goes nowhere and takes its time to explain it all along the way. In the end we don't care about the little dead girl, the little living girl, Jennifer Connelly, her asshole ex-husband, her bearded lawyer, the city of New York, Walter Salles or why any of it happens.

Pat Jackson