Friday, September 23, 2005

A Wolf in Crappy Clothing

Dark Water
2005, USA
Walter Salles
35mm

Finally, a movie about the horrors of plumbing. I’ve been waiting for a film like this ever since moving into my apartment, which has pipes like a heroin addict has veins. The water leaves a brown residue, and tastes like copper and dysentery, which I use as an excuse to make Kraft dinner with Coca Cola. Plus, the perpetual gurgling reminds me of an old person dying, which does not help with my insomnia. That’s not the only problem with my place, either. The hardwood floors are warped, I can hear the neighbors yelling at American Idol, and any corpses I try to stack in the closet eventually liquefy due to the poor ventilation and stifling heat. Regardless, I stay, mostly because I dread moving more than I fear death itself, because anytime I pack, I lose an integral part of my crap collection, like a mint condition copy of Crystar, Crystal Warrior #8 or the Gerri in my Spice Girls chocolate bar set. Not that my landlord cares one whit for my concerns, as he’s pretty much the same guy as the character played by John C. Reilly in the film. Reilly’s landlord isn’t sleazy or crooked, he’s just uncaring, but he’s pleasant as well, which is how he manages to convince Jennifer Connolly and her daughter to move into a decrepit building on Roosevelt Island, a slummy area just outside of New York. Once she does, particularly unsetting events begin to occur, ones that make her suspect that her building may in fact be haunted by a fan of Japanese horror films.

Yup. Nothing scarier than Cousin It.

Connelly, as usual, puts in a fine performance in this remake of Hideo Nakata’s film, though I can never get past the fears that her eyebrows are going to bush out to Blue Lagoon proportions and turn her into a braying Brooke Shields clone. She’s joined by a cast of players that are surprisingly talented for a doomed August horror film. Chief among these is Camryn Manheim, an immensely talented actress who manages to disappear into every role despite her distinctive appearance. Wait, did I say ‘immensely talented’? Because I just meant ‘immense’. Clearly, any talent she possesses has come from devouring smaller, less powerful actors, but I’d argue that the Wendigo approach is more effective here than the Stanislavski Method. Connelly really fits into the role of a depressive young mother, which is helped out by the sickly green and yellow color scheme used by director Walter Salles to create an effective atmosphere of terror.

Fear her.

Or at least it would be effective, if anything actually happened. You see, atmosphere is all well and good, but if I’ve learned anything from The Fog, it’s that you can have all kinds of creepy music and eerie cinematography, but if the only pay-off is a guy in a fright wig coming out of what looks like vaporized cotton balls, or some such nonsense, you’re going to leave the audience disappointed. And that’s what’s wrong with Dark Water. It’s not scary. At all. But then again, I don’t really think that it’s supposed to be. This film isn’t really about ghosts, or horror, or anything like that, though it uses those tropes as a framework. The film is actually about a sick woman, depressive and suicidal and suffering through fears of inadequacy as a mother, all the while forced to take care of her daughter alone in a scary building that has Pete Postlethwaite as a superintendent, an experience probably akin to having Paul Bernardo wait your table at Denny’s. Dark Water isn’t about a ghost, it’s about a single mother battling mental illness, hence Salles’ disease-based color scheme. And that’s a good thing. I think that well-made films have a tendency to appear to be about one thing, but are about something else entirely, using genre and narrative as window dressing to mislead the audience, like buying a Maxim magazine because it has Jeri Ryan on the cover only to find that the inside is full of useless reviews of bass fishing video games and barely literate letters to the editor about cigars. That’s why Invasion of the Body Snatchers is really about communism, The Exorcism of Emily Rose is about creationism, and this website is about recruiting people to Stormfront. It’s also why every film made in the America is about a Catholic view of redemption, which is odd, because everyone in Hollywood is either Jewish, Buddhist, or ‘spiritual’, which is what high school and college-age girls are when they want to say Christian but can’t deal with the ‘no giving head in a bar bathroom before marriage’ Commandment. Dark Water, then, is not a movie about long-haired Asian ghosts, or haunted apartments, or even horror at all. It’s about how my landlord is a dick.

14 Comments:

Anonymous Rin said...

I never got around to seeing the remake but the original sounds exactly the same. Tries to be really atmospheric and creepy but at the end of the day dripping water just isn't scary. There were a few good attempts at making me jump but ultimately it was incredibly boring and barely watchable.

5:27 AM  
Blogger Cameron said...

"It’s also why every film made in the America is about a Catholic view of redemption, which is odd, because everyone in Hollywood is either Jewish, Buddhist, or ‘spiritual’, which is what high school and college-age girls are when they want to say Christian but can’t deal with the ‘no giving head in a bar bathroom before marriage’ Commandment"

One of your funniest sentences yet.

5:38 AM  
Blogger melinama said...

I haven't snorted over reviews this much since reading Omar G. dissing Smallville on TelevisionWithoutPity. Thanks!

5:49 AM  
Blogger Ash Karreau said...

Rin - I haven't seen the remake either, but if it's got as many scenes set inside the a talk radio booth as the original, I don't think I'm interested.

Cameron - Thanks. It's also one of my longest. I'm looking to set a Guiness World Record. Keep reading. I'm hoping to write one that takes several days to read. As one reader astutely said in an email, this website has too many words, and is like going to class, except instead of taking notes, you scroll down.

Melinama - No, no, thank you for reading. Let me know if at any point I make a drink come out your nose. This will be my new goal.

10:48 AM  
Blogger Jerk Of All Trades 2.0 said...

Ash, I knew you could do it!
You have SEVERAL people reading now.

I'm jealous too, I don't have anybody named Melanoma reading my shit.

Is this another one of those Japanese flicks remade here? Like The Grope or whatever the hell it was with Buffy in it? I didn't see that one either. If it doesn't have that evil dwarf bitch from Poltergiest in it, it aint gonna scare me.

12:10 PM  
Blogger Jerk Of All Trades 2.0 said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

12:14 PM  
Blogger Ash Karreau said...

Yeah, I guess some people read it now. Still, I got 597 hits on Thursday, and exactly three comments. And two were from people I know.

And yes, this is another Japanese remake. Why did you delete that last comment? You should be damn proud of the "Rabbit" thing.

12:23 PM  
Blogger Jerk Of All Trades 2.0 said...

I thought about leaving it, even though I was wrong about the previous showing up, but I didn't want to hog up all of your comment space.

"Geezus, doesn't Jerk have ANYTHING else to do than comment on my shit?!?"

Answer: No.

5:23 PM  
Blogger gretchkal said...

i agree with you on this one. there was a lot of suspense but no thrill. i held out hope that the ending would make up for the lack-luster rest of the movie. it definately sucked as a thriller, that's for sure!

4:09 AM  
Blogger Sam Kahn said...

Damnit, what's with all of these remakes of foreign films? I hate this trend. I mean, I'll be the first to admit that a remake can be an improvement to the original, but if the goal is simply to cater to people too lazy or ignorant to read subtitles... fuck that.

I noticed on IMDB that Hideo Nakata is remaking The Eye, which I thought was a bad movie to begin with (although it had its moments). Ugh.

Side note: I just realized I comment here more often than I write entries on my own blog. Sad.

6:10 AM  
Blogger Talya said...

Well... Dismissed. I saw like three minutes of this movie and noticed what you said about the whole mommy deal. But, hell, I´m not on the mood for that kind of stuff. Three minutes were enough to make me yawn, and sleep comes not easily to me. Yet, I´m preparing myself to watch Guess Who? What! Is sunday and I had to pick something "viewable" for my brother, who is the mexican equivalent of Chris Rock on movie taste. Actually, the "movie critic" of the newspaper I work on said in his review that it was "funny". I definitely need a good laugh, so you see, I still have a little faith. Oookkk. Let´s see.

Spice Girls, uh?

5:07 PM  
Blogger Ash Karreau said...

Yeah, Sam. I couldn't agree more. Which is why it's so strange that some filmmakers are remaking their own movies, like Hideo Nakata and The Ring 2, and Georges Sluzier, who made an amazing movie, then made it awful with The Vanishing. I hate how they don't even wait, nowadays. The Insomnia remake came out about forty five minutes after the original.

Gretchkal. I was also terribly disappointed in Dark Water as a thriller. Not a single scare to be found, but some suspense, as you mentioned. Thankfully, I was able to enjoy it on another level. Well, enjoy being a relative term.

Talya. I think the problem here is an unavoidable one. They made a movie that wasn't scary enough for thriller fans, and too stupid for those who enjoy serious drama . So, essentially, they made it for me, a stupid drama fan.

10:16 PM  
Blogger batturtle said...

Boring movie.
But at least Jennifer Connelly is hot.

11:12 PM  
Anonymous the man who likes young girls said...

yes, when she was 15 she was hot, but now at 38 she ain`t.

4:31 AM  

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