“Huh, what do you know.
The ghost installed a camera on our ceiling.”

If These Walls Could Weep

“Dark Water” has an abysmal record in Rotten Tomatoes. It’s 43% with the critics and currently at 36% with users. It’s easy to pass over, but when preferred DVDs in Netflix require “Long Wait” or “Very Long Wait,” its availability made me reconsider. Could it really be that bad? So I rent it, hold my breath, and dive into “Dark Water” with a sinking feeling of possible regret.

The movie is about Dahlia (Jennifer Connelly), a single mother who’s fighting a child custody battle. To improve her chances of winning, she must find a place for herself and her little daughter Ceci (Ariel Sade). She ends up in a drab flat in Roosevelt Island, but at least, the rent is within means and the city is only a tram away. Her transition seems to be just fine until she spots an ominous leak in the bedroom ceiling. That’s only the beginning of a nightmare to come.

Luckily, the movie isn’t the nightmare itself, but there is one huge setback. “Dark Water” fails to deliver the expected scare of “a Japanese horror remake.” It’s no wonder horror aficionados are spitting “Dark Water” out. But the thing is – the horror in the movie is only a side dish. The true main course is drama. So okay, the viewer must recover from this genre switcheroo, but “Dark Water” isn’t the first “horror” movie to use horror as an accessory. There are tons of categorized “horror” films that are more laughable than scary; they’re practically comedies.

What’s good about “Dark Water” is its protagonist Dahlia. I wanted her to succeed, but knowing the film is horror in advance, I was compelled to be afraid for her. Jennifer Connelly, so good in brave roles like this, fills the film with emotional resonance. She has those expressive eyes that could tear any minute. I also like Ariel Sade as young Ceci, who strikes a credible chemistry with Connelly. Among the supporting roles, John C. Reilly as the cheerfully smug Mr. Murray is the best. When Murray shows Dahlia and Ceci the dull apartment, Reilly is exceptional in a salesmanship performance.

I think the drama in “Dark Water” is executed well. It’s only when it uses horror it turns ridiculous. Its horrific ending is f—ed up, but in a way, it’s tolerable. “Dark Water” was directed by Walter Salles, known for outdoor dramas like “Central Station” and “The Motorcycle Diaries.” Working in an indoor set, Salles seems restricted this time. The movie doesn’t soar like his previous efforts. While it doesn’t sink either, it’s hanging on to its good drama like a lifesaver.

Grade: B+

Jennifer Connelly, Ariel Gade, John C. Reilly, Dougray Scott, Tim Roth
Screenplay by
Rafael Yglesias
Based on the novel by
Koji Suzuki
And on the film by
Hideo Nakata
Directed by
Walter Salles
Rated PG-13 mature thematic material, frightening sequences, disturbing images and brief language