Combustible Celluloid
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With: Jennifer Connelly, Dougray Scott, John C. Reilly, Tim Roth, Pete Postlethwaite, Camryn Manheim, Ariel Gade
Written by: Rafael Yglesias, based on a screenplay by Hideo Nakata and Takashige Ichise, and a novel by Kôji Suzuki
Directed by: Walter Salles
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for mature thematic material, frightening sequences, disturbing images and brief language
Running Time: 105
Date: 06/27/2005

Dark Water (2005)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Bridging Troubled 'Water'

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Coming from a novel by Kôji Suzuki as well as the 2002 film byJapanese director Hideo Nakata (Ringu), the rainy, inky Dark Wateris only the latest in a continuing onslaught of American remakes ofJapanese horror films.

As a scare film, it's a dud. All of its so-called frightening moments consist of one-second jump-shocks or it's-only-a-nightmare sequences. The main horror emits, like the recent The Amityville Horror and The Grudge, from the ghost of a little girl with long, dark, straggly hair. As soon as we hear the phrase "imaginary friend," most audience members will deduce this equation.

But the weird thing about Dark Water is its director, Walter Salles, the Brazilian art house honcho behind the Oscar-nominated Central Station (1998). Despite Salles' high reputation, he's really a totally banal filmmaker, as his bland follow-ups Behind the Sun (2001) and The Motorcycle Diaries (2004) show.

And so the lowbrow horror of Dark Water actually allows him to stretch out a bit. In telling this story of a recently divorced mother (Jennifer Connelly) who moves into a haunted, slum-like apartment with her daughter (Ariel Gade), he achieves an emotional torrent previously unseen in his work.

Looking thin and sad, Connelly is perfect as the haggard Dahlia, who suffers from migraines and must summon the courage to battle her ex-husband's lawsuits and deal with the horrendous, mucky leak in her ceiling.

Salles also draws three other superb performances. John C. Reilly plays the building's superintendent whose smarmy charm causes Dahlia to move in. Pete Postlethwaite gives his accented maintenance man a perfect New Yorker "it's not my problem" outlook.

But Tim Roth steals the show as Dahlia's lawyer, throwing out all kinds of character-building business that does not advance the plot, but makes for terrific moviegoing. As Jeff Platzer, Roth operates exclusively from his car, and lies about having a family to go home to, while spending Sunday evening alone at the movies.

Part of this success may be the work of the very good screenwriter Rafael Yglesias, whose work includes Fearless (1993), Death and the Maiden (1994) and From Hell (2001). Yglesias clearly has a touch for damaged, luridly explosive characters.

But the skeleton, the driving force of the whole enterprise, just isn't there. It's too bad this pool of talent felt the need to stick to their remake, when clearly they had the ingredients for a terrific original film.

DVD Details: Touchstone's new DVD claims to be an "unrated" version, but it seems to run about a minute or two shorter than the theatrical version. Otherwise, we get deleted scenes and several featurettes.{subid}&url=hitlist.asp?searchfield=marvel
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