Rated PG-13, 103 min. Directed by Walter Salles. Starring Jennifer Connelly, John C. Reilly, Ariel Gade, Pete Postlethwaite, Tim Roth, Dougray Scott, Camryn Manheim.
Dark Water, adapted from Japanese director Hideo Nakata’s 2002 original (Ringu) by the Oscar-nominated director of The Motorcycle Diaries and featuring something of a dream cast, fails, against all odds, to deliver even a single scare. The plot hews closely to Nakata’s earlier film – mother and daughter move into creepy apartment only to discover it haunted by the ghost of little girls past – but completely misfires when it comes to providing the sort of chills the J-horror king has so ably mined in Ringu and its many sequels. (Gore Verbinski helmed a stateside remake three years ago.) Salles loads his version with enough soggy atmospherics to drown a blue whale – the haunting is denoted by an ominously spreading water stain on the ceiling – and when combined with the moribund Roosevelt Island, New York, setting, it recalls nothing so much as one of Dekkard’s bad dreams in Blade Runner. As Dahlia Williams, Academy Award-winner Connelly, who’s no stranger to horror films thanks to her lead role in Dario Argento’s 1985 Phenomena, is saddled with the triple threat of a nasty child-custody battle between herself and former husband Kyle (Scott), longstanding abandonment issues courtesy of her alcoholic mother, and the possibility that she may be going crazy. Certainly her ex seems to think so, and the escalating friendship of her daughter Cecilia (Gade) with her "invisible friend" Natasha also seems to point in that direction. With both a taciturn, vaguely threatening building super played by the always excellent Postlethwaite and John C. Reilly lurking about as a scheming real estate agent, it’s eminently understandable why poor Dahlia seems headed for a crack-up. Nevertheless, Dark Water is a snooze, a determinedly unfrightening collection of bleak, rainy shots that telegraph little but the difficulty of finding a decent home in New York City today. Moments that raised legions of goosebumps in Nakata’s original are here cast out onto the waters like so many soggy breadcrumbs – one in particular, involving some lank black hair emerging from a bathroom faucet – go absolutely nowhere here, and the overall emotion the film generates is one of moist, enervated ennui. Who cares if the apartment is haunted when the best the ghost can do is get things a bit damp and run laps on the floor above? It’s about as terrifying as having Sigmund and the Sea Monsters for neighbors, only minus the genuinely horrific Sid and Marty Krofft costumes.
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