I’ve seen differing reviews of this movie, some which say it’s okay and others which really go to town on it. I think the latter is very unfair and shows that there’s still a gulf that exists between the style of Asian horror and Hollywood. A gulf that I can’t really see will be resolved by continuing on the remake road. Having seen the original movie I liked it a lot and was very spooked by the end of it, so I was keen to see for myself if this movie had managed to travel well from the to the Hollywood style.
I can tell you straight away that I didn’t like it as much as the Asian original. The original Dark Water follows many of the same rules of Asian horror:
- Make the audience think for themselves
- Do not feed them the information or clues merely hint at them in the subtlest of ways
- Employ camera techniques to unnerve the audience
It’s interesting that for the beginning of the movie it does have a fair go at taking a gentle pace and building the tension slowly. For a traditional Hollywood audience this could be seen as dull, and it could even be taken that nothing seems to happen for the first half of the movie. This is where I think many reviewers and critics have hit the hurdle. This audience isn’t ready for the Asian cinema, they still need a degree of spoon feeding, of scenes shown in blatant detail, clues spelled out in bold letters and big arrows pointing at the action centered firmly in the middle of the screen.
Still all this said, I think the start of the movie does seem slow. It follows the style of the Asian original as much as it can, resorting to a few big in your face moments just in case the audience miss what happens, and then builds to much bigger set pieces in the latter half. These scenes are where the movie flips back to Hollywood from it’s interpretation of the original, and that’s where the slow paced suspense is lost and the slow pace of the first half seems slightly out of pace and almost too slow. If they had kept this feeling throughout I think it might have been a better movie.
However, the tension is built well, and even the bigger, latter section of the movie is good. It still manages to keep the audience unsure and slightly uneasy. Yet the ending just doesn’t seem as effective as the original, and again I think this is down to the bigger scenes crowding out what should be the biggest moment of the movie.
The acting is strong in the movie, the young girl Ariel Gade provides a good performance and Jennifer Connelly is superb. Her performance as the confused and troubled mother desperately trying to hold her life together for her daughter is extremely convincing, particularly when she begins to fall apart. Dougray Scott provides a brief and memorable appearance, with Tim Roth backing up the cast. John C. Reilly is surprisingly good as the inept and self invested owner of the apartment block.
Something that struck me about the main character is that she is portrayed as being mentally ill from the outset, this is something the original didn’t have to do and it made me wonder why not. I came up with two options, either they were trying to make the audience believe that perhaps all this was in her mind despite the fact that her daughter was backing up her story, or that it made the events and decisions she makes more palatable to the Western audience. She has to be slightly unhinged for these things to happen, it couldn’t happen to someone sane, they would either walk away or the movie would never reach it’s climax. Again, I think this is down to the Hollywood audiences finding it much harder to accept the Asian plots. It’s an aside though, as this aspect works well and builds the character to the final moments of the movie…but it did seem to steal the effect of the climax that the original had.
Visually the movie looks great, and borrows a lot from the original. It’s dark and foreboding, with the location and sets looking lifeless and ancient, as though they could be very unsafe and steeped with history. Without a doubt they’ve chosen an amazing location for the movie in the apartment blocks on Roosevelt Island.
Oh, before I forget, many thanks to Vue cinema at Ocean Terminal in Edinburgh for helping us out with the movie reviews. Excellent cinema!
Generally the movie was good, I think it will definitely rise in your estimation if you haven’t seen the original, but it will also highlight the change of pace between the two halves and make you feel the slowness of the opening more. This movie is far less subtle than it’s original, and this really does make me mark it down. It’s not just this movie either, it’s something Hollywood does with all remakes of far subtler movies, and it’s something they should learn to control. Still I’m not going to destroy it because of it’s differences to the Asian original,. On it’s own I think it stands as a good movie, and an effective chiller, it just doesn’t do it well enough.