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"Dark Water" Movie Review

Not Worth Wading Through


Jennifer Connelly in "Dark Water"

© Touchstone Pictures
Academy Award-winner Jennifer Connelly follows up her terrific performances in “A Beautiful Mind” and “House of Sand and Fog” with the lead role in “Dark Water,” a film described by the studio as a ‘chilling tale of psychological terror.’ In actuality, the film’s not even slightly ‘chilling’ and lacks any real scares or the depth to be considered a psychologically terrifying movie.

“Dark Water” is a murky mess that fails on every conceivable level. The story follows Connelly as Dahlia Williams, a woman who is going through divorce proceedings and has to move with her young daughter Ceci (Ariel Gade) to a dilapidated apartment complex in a seedy neighborhood. The rundown place is all she can afford and that’s fine and dandy, but when you’re taking a tour of the complex and you see weird water stains all over the building, you get trapped in the elevator on the way to getting your first look at the apartment, your young daughter takes off up the stairs and winds up on the edge of the roof hundreds of feet above the ground, and a child’s backpack mysteriously shows up unattached to any child, you might want to consider shopping around for a different living space.

But no, “Dark Water” takes the predictable horror movie path and plucks its characters down in a situation that immediately puts them in peril. Even the most desperate apartment hunters would think twice – or even three, four times – about renting out this apartment but Dahlia is somehow convinced this is the place she and her daughter should call home. And just as soon as the two move in, creepy noises and other weird things start happening, most of which involve lots and lots of – you guessed it – dark water.

Dangling plot points and irresponsible parenting issues aside, the main problem with “Dark Water” is that it’s filled with little scenes that seem to be leading up to something good and scary, but that just collapse before the big payoff. It’s a frustrating thing to endure as you get a glimpse there might actually be something worth screaming about (or at least clutching the armrest over) and then the director moves on, never allowing the scene to play out and robbing the audience of any real climatic moment.

Saturated in dark colors (lots of musty greens and depressing browns), the film’s unappealing tones do help convey the feeling of helplessness Connelly’s character’s experiencing. But they also have the unintended effect of making for a very bland, very dreary visual experience for the audience.

I normally admire Connelly’s choices of roles, but she must have been having a very bad day when she decided on this one. Connelly’s totally wasted and relegated to showing one emotion and one facial expression throughout the film. Supporting players Tim Roth, John C Reilly and Pete Postlethwaite fare no better. Given nothing to work with, none of the actors were able to do anything memorable – or even slightly special – with “Dark Water’s” supporting roles. On the other hand, scene-stealing newcomer Ariel Gade shows she has some real talent in an extremely rough role.

Why is it that Hollywood studios seem to think audiences want to see more remakes of Japanese horror/thrillers? “The Ring” was great but it really went downhill from there. “Dark Water” is not even up to the standards of “The Ring 2,” and that film set the bar just inches off the ground.

The only thing scary about “Dark Water” is the fact the movie never seems to end. After a few fake-outs where the screen fades to black and you believe the agony is finally over and you’re free to leave the theater (and hopefully free to put the fact you’ve just wasted a couple hours you’ll never get back out of your mind), things start up again onscreen. When I left I wasn’t positive it was actually over but it was all I could stand and had to escape. Seriously, you’re going to think you’ve died and gone to movie hell by the time the credits roll. It’s that bad.


"Dark Water" was directed by Walter Salles and is rated PG-13 for terror and disturbing situations.

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