Since we began Pajiba a year ago this month, one thing has been consistent in our user logs: traffic is always heaviest on Mondays, which suggests to me that — rather than browse our reviews beforehand — many of our seven loyal readers check out our reviews to see what we thought of the shitty movie they were subjected to over the weekend. Indeed, many of our more popular reviews are of movies of the supernatural variety, especially the ones that rely on complicated storylines or trick endings, and I can only assume many of you come to us in the hopes that we can bring some clarity to something that you might have missed, either because: 1) the film needs multiple viewings to make sense of it; 2) you’re an idiot, incapable of grasping even the most conventional of narratives; or 3) you failed to pay attention to three-fourths of the film because you were too busy wondering whether you were going to be able to cop a feel at the end of your date.
We like to think that we can give some perspective to all three groups — the cinephiles, the halfwits, and the concupiscent; unfortunately, I can’t offer much to explain Dark Water, another in a seemingly endless procession of bad Japanese horror remakes. I haven’t quite decided whether I fit into the halfwit category myself and just missed the ingenious Shyamalan twist, or if Dark Water was a plodding, straightforward, one-dimensional movie with absolutely no payoff, other than the pointless, torrential outpouring of grimy water. Or maybe the film’s secret twist lies in its ability to extract $10 from your wallet without offering even the slightest morsel of entertainment value. It’s a mystery to me, but unless you think two hours of a sopping, grimfaced Jennifer Connelly is worth the price of admission (and I suspect many of you do), I might suggest spending some time at your local watering hole (either of the chlorinated or the alcoholic variety) in lieu this tedious, gloom-filled excuse for summer blockbuster amusement.
Dark Water begins in New York City, where Dahlia (Connelly), a bleary-eyed single mommy going through a messy divorce, is searching about Manhattan for an affordable apartment. Dahlia and her daughter, Ceci (Ariel Gade) — hoodwinked by the sleazy rental agent, Murray (John C. Reilly) — ultimately settle for a “lower penthouse,” Polanski-style apartment on Roosevelt Island, where the ceiling leaks unexplainably and the doorman has all the tell-tell signs of a pedophile (but at $900 in NYC, it’s still a bargain at twice the price!). Once the occupants move in, Dark Water turns, quickly, into an urban-style Amityville Horror: Dahlia is haunted by wicked dreams of dead people and her past; Ceci acquires a morbid, possessive imaginary friend; the faucets acquire a mind of their own; weird shit starts to happen; and the tenants inexplicably refuse to vacate (the only thing missing here is a shirtless Ryan Reynolds running around with an axe).
Academy Award-winning Jennifer Connelly acts as nothing more than a defective sponge, soaking up gallons of sewer-filled water, but expelling nothing with which we can sympathize, emoting “tortured soul” within her sad eyes, but presenting nothing in the way of action. Director Walter Salles (Central Station, The Motorcycle Diaries) makes excellent use of the camera, offering up an unpleasantly dreary atmosphere and occasionally giving life to the grimy water, but he’s left little to work with besides a series of A-List actors (Dougray Scott plays the abusive ex-husband and Tim Roth turns in a remarkable performance as Dahlia’s divorce lawyer) and a nonsensical script, which can’t decide whether it’s a supernatural thriller or creepy commentary on the effects of divorce on children. In either respect, Dark Water fails. Despite deliberately slow pacing and methodically built tension, the only suspense Salles is able to build involves what kind of twist-ending he will deploy to tie up the film’s plot strands. Unfortunately, no such ending ever arrives, allowing the moviegoer no release, leaving us not only unfulfilled, but worse still: bored to fucking death.
Dustin Rowles is the publisher of Pajiba and managing partner of its parent company, which prefers to remain anonymous for reasons pertaining to public relations. He lives in Ithaca, New York.
Dark Water / Dustin Rowles
Film | May 12, 2006 | Comments ()