Walter Salles' DARK WATER
Movie Review by Dennis D. McDonald
This movie far exceeds expectations given its “horror” label and the cheesy previews shown in theaters before its release. While other reviewers (and the crew interviewed on the DVD’s bonus features) compare it with Rosemary’s Baby, I think it refers back much more to the classic — and disturbing — Don’t Look Now by Nicholas Roeg.
There’s lots of water in both movies. Venice figures in Roeg’s film and a malevolently leaky and dank apartment co-stars in Dark Water. We also glimpse ghostly children (or child-ghosts) and the impacts they have on adults undergoing great emotional trauma.
Jennifer Connelly masterfully plays a young mother who, having just split from her husband, moves herself and her young daughter to a dank, dark, seedy, decrepit, but affordable high-rise New York City apartment. Things grow on the walls here, there are few other residents in the building, the laundry room is like a dungeon, the super is a scary old bastard, and they hear voices. And then things get much worse.
This could have been playedlike a cheap cat-jumps-out-from-the-shadows type of scary movie, but it’s not. Performances are nuanced (no one is all bad or all good, including the heroine), photography is gorgeous, lighting is moody and unsettling, and the sets — well the sets, the apartment building, and the apartment itself have to be seen to be believed.
What amazed me most about this unsettling movie was that you really getto know these characters. Each one is presented without judgement, warts and all. But they seem real, right down to the lies they tellothers and themselves.
There are no mad slashers, the rivers (or the halls) don’t run red with blood, and the story unfolds gradually. I don’t see how you can watch this movie and not be engrossed in what is happening to this single mother as she fights her own demons and those around her. But the trip is well worth it.
Copyright (c) 2006 by Dennis D. McDonald