Walter Salles’ ‘Dark Water’ (2005)

14Aug05

U.S.-ian advertising for movies is terrible, and the trailers for Dark Water demonstrate this assertion. In the United States, a horror movie is conceived as a brainless hour and a half of “entertainment” that includes lots of screaming, lots of gore, lots of scares, and lots of female nudity usually. In Asia, a horror movie can fit that description, but it also has another incarnation. Many Asian “horror” movies are given the title only because they contain elements of the supernatural. There’s a haunting or a ghost or some bit of supernatural creepiness that might attract the attention of Vincent Price. But oftentimes the film is actually a character study and the supernatural creepiness is only an other-worldly manifestation of worldly problems. Such is the case with Dark Water. At the screening of Dark Water that I attended, some idiot on the back row heckled the last few minutes of the movie. That guy was thinking, “Where’re the tits? Where’s the blood at?”

The film’s assets:

  1. Acting. This film features some top notch actors who understand the depth of the material and do not treat it like your typical horror movie. Jennifer Connelly’s performance is excellent and she is ably assisted by Ariel Gade, who has way too much talent for a girl her age. John C. Reilly is also hysterical as the apartment manager.
  2. Direction. Walter Salles creates a moody atmosphere that serves his material well. He manages to strike a balance between the “horror” and the “drama” so that both aspects of the material work. He creates some genuinely creepy, tension-filled moments and really manages to sell Dahlia’s questioning of her sanity.

The film’s offenses:

  1. Saccharinity. Yes, Dahlia and Cecilia are cute, but at times they were just too cute.
  2. The ending. The ending….the ending seemed a little weak to me. I don’t have a suggestion of how one might alter it, but I didn’t feel satisfied by the ending.

I do recommend this film, even to big chickens like myself. Endure the spooky moments and one is treated to an interesting study of the bond between a mother and daughter.

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