1 item from 2005
Fresh from his Oscar-nominated The Motorcycle Diaries, acclaimed director Walter Salles takes the horror movie plunge with Dark Water, a psychological thriller with the accent truly on the psychological.
With his stirring visual sense very much intact here, Salles sets the creepy mood eloquently, but the picture -- based on the Japanese film by Hideo Nakata and a short story by Koji Suzuki, both of The Ring fame -- ultimately fails to reward all the little shivers with any satisfying jolts.
Although it's refreshing to have a horror script (by Fearless screenwriter Rafael Yglesias) that veers away from the usual zombies and slashers, the recurring thematic elements in Dark Water are still all too familiar to anyone who has seen any installment of The Ring cycle, not to mention the recent Amityville Horror or Hide and Seek.
That watered-down effect, combined with an unsatisfying ending that stints on the kind of audience-shocking coup de grace that translates into repeat viewings, will make for respectable but most likely not summer-worthy numbers.
There's no shortage of icky atmosphere in the picture's setup, with newly divorced mom Dahlia Williams (Jennifer Connelly) and her young daughter, Ceci (Ariel Gade), renting a depressing apartment in a sprawling block of bleak concrete monoliths on bleaker Roosevelt Island.
It's the kind of joint that would make the apartment in Polanski's The Tenant look downright homey by comparison, so it's not surprising that the nasty-looking dark water stain that starts to form on the ceiling can only lead to worse stuff.
Of course, a bad leak is never really about a bad leak, especially in the Japanese thriller arena, and Salles and Yglesias plumb some murky psychological depths having much (a little too much) to do with Dahlia's own abandonment issues and big-city alienation.
By the time the inevitable deluge arrives, one can almost hear the Lennon-McCartney refrain of "Ah, look at all the lonely people" along with all that dripping and sinister whispering in the walls.
But while the story is a bit of a letdown, the performances are watertight. Connelly brings a nicely grounded and tightly coiled restraint to her role, while John C. Reilly is an absolute hoot as the smarmy con man of a complex manager who hustles Dahlia into taking the apartment.
There are also no complaints about the oodles of eerie atmosphere. You can almost smell the suffocating dankness in Affonso Beato's evocative, shadow-laced cinematography and production designer Therese DePrez's appropriately washed-out earth tones.
Adding to the heady textures is another elegantly off-center score by frequent David Lynch collaborator Angelo Badalamenti.
Buena Vista Pictures
Touchstone Pictures presents
a Pandemonium/Vertigo Entertainment production
Director: Walter Salles
Screenwriter: Rafael Yglesias
Producers: Bill Mechanic, Roy Lee and Doug Davison
Executive producer: Ashley Kramer
Director of photography: Affonso Beato
Production designer: Therese DePrez
Editor: Daniel Rezende
Costume designer: Michael Wilkinson
Music: Angelo Badalamenti
Dahlia Williams: Jennifer Connelly
Mr. Murray: John C. Reilly
Platzer: Tim Roth
Kyle: Dougray Scott
Veeck: Pete Postlethwaite
Mrs. Finkle: Camryn Manheim
Cecilia: Ariel Gade
Natasha/Young Dahlia: Perla Haney-Jardine
MPAA rating PG-13
Running time -- 100 minutes »
1 item from 2005
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