7.05.2005

Dark Water

Steven Spielberg tops the box office with his predatory hit, “War of the Worlds” and Christopher Nolan follows close behind with “Batman Begins”, delivering engaging filmic enjoyment. If “Dark Water” is the “thrill of the summer”, then we might want to rethink this one.

To be blunt, there is no way an American remake of a Japanese film will be able to top what has hit the box office thus far. Kôji Suzuki’s psychological Japanese thrillers don’t translate well when handled by an American director under American film standards. The visual emphasis of Suzuki’s work is manhandled by Walter Salles, resulting in scenes saturated with heightened sound effects. The silence that plays such a powerful part in Suzuki’s work is blundered and replaced by pure boredom.

It takes about thirty minutes for any desired fright to conjure on the screen. Meanwhile, one forgets that this film is actually supposed to induce horror at the hands of suspense because it’s just another rainy day and Jennifer Connelly chose to move into a rundown apartment that is falling apart; big deal. A ghetto apartment isn’t enough to instill fear and if you make an audience wait until the second act of a movie to realize this is rated PG-13 for disturbing images, then you’ve already lost a portion of the audience to the exit door.

So what’s the deal? It’s a story about a divorced couple and their little girl stuck in the middle. Dahlia, played by Connelly, is tormented by her past with an alcoholic mother and an absent father. She’s a forgotten child, battling with her own self-destructive world in an apartment building haunted by an imaginary girl and leaky ceilings. “Dark Water” refers to the murky substance that drips from every lacuna in the neglected building. It’s also a metaphor, but you’ll figure that out.

This may be an impressive storyline, but nonetheless a déjà vu. The allusive themes surrounding water flooded the films of Suzuki’s “The Ring” series and dripped right into “Dark Water”. The storylines are mirror images thus leading again towards the exit door.

It’s almost a crime how much effort is put forth to destroying such a potentially successful horror film. Salles began the film on the right foot with dull lighting and powerful darkness, but then stumbled into sound as the key for fear. Some of the most frightening moments are visual unknowns and a creepy little girl. Nothing fancy is needed to embellish Suzuki’s psychological horror. Salles should have learned this from Hideo Nikata’s “The Ring 2” where scant special effects left a bald storyline.

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