Despite ho-hum reaction from the film critics, this is not a bad film. Dark Water is just another film that got lost in the shuffle of another Japanese horror flick to get a round-eyed makeover. It’s easy to see why an American producer would be attracted to the source material: the tale of divorced mother fighting for her daughter in a custody battle and fending off a crazy, relentless ghost. Sounds pretty cool on paper, no? Her kid has an imaginary friend she won’t talk about, their ceiling is dripping gooey black liquid from an abandoned and flooded) apartment upstairs, and the building’s manager seem to be hiding something sinister.
This movie will get a bad rep off the back due to the fashionable Hollywood trend of remaking Japanese ghost thrillers that weren’t all that good to begin with. There are many refreshing aspects to Dark Water, such as the near absence of special effects usage. The film’s atmosphere is extremely effective, and the cast is great. Jennifer Connelly is very moving as the mother, Tim Roth is convincing as her sympathetic lawyer, and John C. Reilly does a wonderful job as the sleazebag slumlord who always pretends to be on top of everything but never lifts a finger as his property falls to pieces. Truth be told, this is Connelly’s movie, and everyone else exists solely to assist or prevent Dahlia’s slow descent into madness.
Overall this movie was very enjoyable, the creepy vibe was so strong that there were times I thought of just stopping the movie not out of fear but out of tension. If you see this film, or have seen it already then you should know what I am talking about. Vengeful ghost spirits, water, eerie hallways, long black hair imagery, and girls singing nursery rhymes doesn’t creep out audiences anymore. It’s been done over and over and over again, so you expect some kind of originality. Dark Water doesn’t have that and it fails to induce shrieks. However, the movie works surprisingly well as a psychological thriller. So instead of being scared I found myself more tense than anything.
Dark Water will not break new ground or cause an outbreak of goosebumps, but its strong ensemble cast and mesmerizing atmospheric tones elevate the film above standard horror fare. One major gripe is that Dark Water’s pacing is really slow. So much time, in fact, is spent on the setup of events that it is nearly an hour before anything substantial actually happens. There is nothing in the movie that is persuasively real. But the end result is still fun. And when the stunning ending comes on, you’ll suddenly realise why Dark Water stands out among the multitude of films from where the kid ‘sees’ spooky things. The constant rain storms just add to the mood of the movie. A great movie experience if you ask me.