The latest in a line of remakes of Japanese horror films that started with Gore Verbinski's "The Ring", "Dark Water" certainly starts off seeming promising, with good performances from Jennifer Connelly and John C. Reilly, as well as fine direction from Walter Salles ("Central Station"). The film opens with Dahlia (Jennifer Connelly) entering into a rather nasty custody battle with her ex-husband (Dougray Scott, an actor who I wish would be in more movies), and deciding to move out of the city with daughter Ceci (Ariel Glade) in order to try and find something more affordable.
The two eventually find a rather run-down apartment building that looks like it has been aging a few times faster than is possible. The two decide to move in, and, slowly but surely, strange events begin to occur. Water drops from the ceiling (the first thing I'd be considered about is mold, although that looks to be the least of the concerns in the building), which isn't met with much help from the building maintenance man (Pete Posthelwaite), nor the owner (Reilly).
The opening stretch of "Dark Water" is likely going to dazzle some and dismay others. Those seeking out a more aggressive horror movie are not going to find it here, as the opening half of the picture is concerned with set-up. However, I thought that Salles, cinematographer Affonso Beato and Thérèse DePrez and other members of the crew worked to create such a haunting, gloomy atmosphere that the movie remained completely engaging. The rather subtle, elegant feel of the film sort of reminded me of "The Others", only set in present day.
The performances are also first-rate, especially Connelly, whose performance almost seems haunted. While the actress draws into herself in the quiet performance, Connelly still manages to suggest more going on in a look. It's an engaging, enjoyable performance that I thought really carried the majority of the movie well. Supporting efforts are good, as well: Posthelwaite, Reilly, Glade and others are excellent.
The first hour offers a few teases of spookiness and things start to become a bit more intense in the second half, but it's not until the end that things really trip up, as the final quarter feels like something from a different movie, and the ending really should have been deleted completely or reworked. I won't go any deeper into discussing plot, as to not ruin any of the surprises. Still, go into "Dark Water" expecting a quiet mystery with some horror touches and you might find this picture as enjoyable as I did. Go into it expecting a more intense, more straightforward horror picture, and you'll be disappointed. This "unrated" edition runs 2 minutes shorter than the theatrical edition.
VIDEO: "Dark Water" is presented by Buena Vista Home Video in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Presentation quality is not outstanding, but is certainly still pretty satisfying. Sharpness and detail are generally very good, although some moments looked a bit soft.
Unfortunately, some edge enhancement was noticable during some exterior sequences. While not terribly distracting, the mild edge enhancement was still noticable. A couple of minor artifacts were also spotted, but no print flaws were seen. Colors remain intentionally subdued, but are presented accurately and don't look muddy or otherwise problematic.
SOUND: The film's Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack (labeled as "Enhanced For Home Theater" on the box) is about as subtle as the movie, although there are certainly some uses of the surrounds to deliver some enjoyable ambience, score elements and occasional sound effects. Audio quality was fine, as sound effects seemed crisp and punchy, Angelo Badalamenti's great score sounded clear and dialogue was easily understood.
EXTRAS: A couple of brief deleted scenes, "The Making of Dark Water" featurette, "Sound of Terror" featurette (sound design), "Extraordinary Ensemble" featurette and "Analyzing Dark Water Scenes" (the filmmakers discuss two scenes, and one scene allows the viewer to play the different audio elements separately.)
Final Thoughts: "Dark Water" remains a largely superb mystery until the end, where the final moments really didn't work for me, and took away a bit from what came before. Still, the movie is certainly worth a look as a rental. The DVD offers fine audio/video quality, as well as a decent helping of supplements.
The Film B