This is going to be a rare review, for I have seen both the original "Dark Water" as well as an early test screening of the American remake of "Dark Water" with Jennifer Connelly. This will be a comparison of the two as well as a standard review.
Both the original and remake are about a mother and daughter in the midst of a custody battle, and must move into a dilapidated apartment building with a creepy elevator and a water tower on the roof. Meanwhile supernatural occurrences involving water seem to be coming from the apartment upstairs. These strange occurrences start to affect the mother in such a way that it makes her seem too unstable to win custody of her daughter over her competing ex-husband. Both have a similar conclusion to a plot that has doesn't drive the audience's interest other than to figure out what all the supernatural stuff is about.
This is where the similarities end. Other than the above paragraph, the two films are written completely different.
THE ORIGINAL Japanese VERSION:
The original "Dark Water" shares the same creative minds as "Ringu" and it shows, but "Ringu" is far superior. It comes off more as leftovers from their creative process. It's yet another Asian horror film where the "villain" is a long dark haired dead girl whose face can't be seen clearly.
As the plot unfolds, I get the feeling this film is going somewhere interesting. Then the end comes and it makes almost no sense. I didn't understand the actions that occurred, and when I guessed at what I saw, the motives didn't line up with those actions. It didn't communicate properly to me as an American, nor anyone else in the room with me at the time. There's a sense of a complete story being there, buried beneath the poor communication, but if you asked me what happened at the end, I couldn't say.
If you see it, you too will probably ask, "What's with the neck pinching?", or "Why did she do that?".
THE American REMAKE:
When America remade "Ringu", Gore Verbinski kept the visual creepiness of the original, if not improved it. Instead, the remake of "Dark Water" loses some of that visual creepiness the original had, but trades it for a better and more comprehensible script, at least for a western audience. The "villain" isn't all that creepy on a visual level. The remake is missing the mark on creating creepy visuals that aren't tired cliché's, like submerged bodies who open their eyes suddenly in someone's daydream. Didn't we just see that in "The Two Towers" and "Resident Evil"? New material please! You know how some cold days have a misty, rainy grayer-than-gray sky that gives you a dreary depressing feeling that makes you want to get as far away from it as possible? Well, the remake has chosen to make that the setting for the ENTIRE FILM! I understand a mood must be set, and it's supposed to be a creepy movie, but does it have to make me want to stop watching the film?
The remake decides to focus on the custody battle over the daughter in order to make sense of the confusing ending to the original film. This gets boring early on, yet its necessary to understand the characters' poorly emulated motives and feelings. The writers for the remake have done something clever to improve it. They created a much bigger part for the apartment building caretaker, played by Pete Postlethwaite, who does an excellent job playing the shady suspicious character somehow involved in the mystery. Man, I missed Pete. I was happy to see him.
While the writing for the original "Dark Water" felt similar to "Ringu" or "The Grudge", the remake feels more in tune with a cheap, unimaginative version of "The Shining" or "The Sixth Sense". Where the original didn't make a clear telling of its story, the remake makes up for that...somewhat. However, the remake is overall dull and boring most of the time, and it lacks a clear sense of direction and has almost no suspense until the very end. The first two thirds of the film will make it difficult to answer the question, "What is this film about?". A good mystery gives us clear questions to ask that the hero wants to find out. In this case, it's the other way around. The hero seems as though she wants to ask the audience what this film is about, and they just don't know.
In summary, the remake is an improvement in script, but a degradation in visuals. It's unscary, unsuspensful and too mediocre to be worth a full ticket price. I'll beat the other reviewers to the punch on this obvious pun you'll see all over Rotten Tomatoes, and say "Dark Water is watered down."
Original: 5.0 / 10 Remake: 5.5 / 10
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