I went out a month ago and deliberately hired Hideo Nakata’s Dark Water (Honogurai mizu no soko kara) in preparation for the impending Hollywood remake. The Japanese original betrayed its links to Nakata’s earlier film Ring (Ringu), and in many ways seemed an inferior imitation of that already classic horror film. It was primarily lacklustre and occasionally dull, so I’m happy to report that the Hollywood remake is actually an improvement.
Yes, that’s right, I’m saying this is better than the original (much like the Sarah Michelle Gellar version of The Grudge impressed me more than the original). In 2005’s Dark Water we have Jennifer Connelly (House of Sand and Fog) in the lead role, who of course gives a splendidly dynamic performance as the paradoxically insecure and assertive. Despite her personal history, faulty whitegoods and leaky pipes, she is determined to be there for her daughter above all else. It seems a little strange that Connelly would choose a film like this after winning her Oscar, but then again Halle Berry did star in the fairly pathetic yet entertaining Gothika after Monster’s Ball. I wanted to marry Jennifer Connelly back at the age of 6 when I saw her in Labyrinth, and I’m sure I’d accept a similar invitation these days*. Her performance is the main strength of Dark Water, and occasionally hints at a much darker film. (In fact I wondered if a lot of the sinister character moments were cut out of the theatrical release).
So how does Dark Water beat the original? Well for starters the supporting cast have been fleshed out a lot. We have John C. Reilly (The Aviator) as the jovial yet insincere real estate agent and Pete Postlethwaite (Triggermen) as the mumbling ‘eastern European’ superintendent. For what must be the tenth time I didn’t recognise Tim Roth (The Musketeer) until the end credits, and his hotshot lawyer certainly has some unique moments (that admittedly never amount to much, but are interesting details nonetheless). The narrative threads are also a little more tightly woven here than the original, something which also worked for The Grudge.
Strangely enough this version relies less on gory surprises and more on creeping menace. Dark Water never gets terrifying in the way that Ring was, and is more of a subtle character piece. We should also be thankful that this particular remake isn’t overburdened with special effects in the way that The Ring was.
Dark Water is better than the original, but still not a fantastic film, and it certainly doesn’t do anything positive to promote Roosevelt Island, New Jersey. Restrained, dark and creepy.Rating: