Saturday, 10 July 2010

Dark Water (2005)

I kept putting off watching this Hollywood remake of Nakata's 2002 ghost story, assuming that - as with The Ring, The Grudge and The Eye - it would be a flat let down. Well, it's not bad at all. In fact it's the best 'Westernisation' of an Asian horror movie. Or, more correctly, ghost story, as Dark Water isn't really horrific so much as bleak and relentless.

The reworked story is set in New York, but most of the action takes place on Roosevelt Island - an unfamiliar location to me, at least. As in the original, it rains a lot. As in the original, there's a rather grim apartment block, this one described by the letting agent as Brutalist.

Jennifer Connelly plays the mother who, following the breakdown of her marriage, has to move into a far-from-perfect flat with her small daughter. Her performance is rather good, and the overall look and feel of the film is classy. What really makes it work for me, though, are two British actors playing non-Brit characters. Tim Roth is so good as the Lincoln lawyer that I didn't recognise him. Pete Postlethwaite is suitably grumpy and enigmatic as the building's East European janitor, who neglects his mopping duties.

The main change to the plot is the conclusion. While the basic story remains the same, a bit of sentiment is allowed to creep in. The message, though, remains uncompromising - life is often cruel, and sometimes sacrifices must be made. As a celluloid ghost story, this is one of the good ones. Just don't watch it if you're feeling depressed.


Oscar Solis said...

I've yet to see the remake of Dark Water, but the original was pretty good. It, too, was depressing.

I can't bring myself to see western remakes of asian horror (or ghost stories) as something gets lost in the translation. Part of the appeal of seeing these films in their original language is that you are sometimes as lost as the characters themselves. Hard to explain, but there it is. And also the fact that most western audiences (at least here in the USA) need to have every damn nuance explained to death. No mystery, no real terror.

Not sure if your aware but there was an earlier film entitled Dark Waters. It's a mood piece about a young lady who goes to visit a friend at some nunnery in a country that seems like it's near the Black Sea. While it sometimes borders on the incomprehensible, it does have an air of weirdness that a lot of supernatural films lack. Plus it's truly a bleak film, almost nihilistic.

valdemar said...

Yes, I take the point about over-explanation. I enjoy Asian horror films because I have to work at them, somewhat. The US remake of Dark Water is pretty good, as such films go, but it does involve a bit too much exposition. I'm now intrigued by Dark Waters... There are in fact several films of that name. Perhaps I'll try and watch them all.

Daniel Mills said...

Thanks for the review. Despite loving Nakata’s original, I had gone well out of my way to avoid seeing this. Now I think I shall have to give it a go after all.

I wonder if you’ve seen Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s "Pulse?" Kurosawa is known for making idiosyncratic, highly-stylized parables of ambiguity and in "Pulse" he puts his distinctive spin on the J-horror genre. The result is something truly beautiful and strange -- perhaps my favorite depiction of ghosts in the cinema. It's also one I think you might particularly enjoy, given how much is left to the viewer's imagination.

I also mention it because the American remake is so exquisitely inept as to make it nearly emblematic of the American remake phenomenon as a whole.

valdemar said...

Pulse - thanks Daniel, will look out for it.