a critiQal film review Dark Water (2005)

Plot: After leaving her husband Kyle (Scott), Dahlia (Connelly) and her five-year-old daughter Cecilia (Gade) move into a new apartment in Roosevelt Heights, NY. While it isn't the best apartment, it's affordable and located near a good school. But, when water starts leaking into their apartment, and Cecilia begins to have conversations with her imaginary friend, Dahlia begins to suspect there may be something wrong with the empty apartment directly above their heads.

823 words (Est. Reading Time 4m 6s)
  • ...a disappointment on many levels.

Ever since Jennifer Connelly appeared in the films Dark City (1998) and A Beautiful Mind (2001), I notice when she appears in a new film. Her previous films, like Career Opportunities, hadn’t done much for me. But since she showed she could really act in Dark City (1998) and A Beautiful Mind (2001), I’ve definitely paid attention to new films of hers. So I noticed when Dark Water showed up.

Still, I’m somewhat wary, as those 2 films could have been flukes, and sooner or later she’s bound to drop back down into the lesser roles she was choosing before. Still, when previews for Dark Water started popping up a little while back, it looked like she was trying to keep her momentum up, and it really looked like something she could really sink her teeth into. With films like Career Opportunities still floating around the back of my mind, however, I definitely wasn’t going to shell out the big bucks to see Dark Water in theaters. But on DVD? That’s a different story.

While Jennifer Connelly doesn’t quite reach the heights of acting in Dark Water that her roles in Dark City (1998) and A Beautiful Mind (2001) brought out in her, she hasn’t sunk yet to the level she was at in Career Opportunities, either.

She does manage to portray her character’s multitude of emotions with enough impact to convey those feelings to the audience enough that the viewer is willing to stick around to see what happens next. Her character looks a little haggard right from the get-go (supposedly because of the divorce she’s going through), but the viewer’s impression most likely will be of a worn-down actress.

She won’t be able to shake the viewer’s feelings that she’s acting at any point in Dark Water. Masters at the craft of acting can act well enough that viewers won’t suspect they are acting – they are really that deeply involved with their character. Jennifer may not be to blame for that in Dark Water, however – the “horror/thriller” genre is rather new to her, and she may not have fully connected with her character.

Unfortunately, the rest of Dark Water doesn’t do a lot to help support their main actress, instead leaving her floundering out on her own several times in the film. Either the script doesn’t let the other actors contribute what the normally would (Tim Roth) or the actors just don’t seem to want to (Pete Postelthwaite). Either way, no big contributions to help Jennifer out much at all.

The way Dark Water is filmed doesn’t help much either. With it’s incredibly slow and drawn-out buildup, Dark Water doesn’t even get into anything “scary” until the movie’s almost over. If the viewer goes in expecting this to be another Final Destination 3 (2006) or The Ring (2002), they are going to be sorely disappointed, as the unnatural aspects in Dark Water are few and far between.

Unfortunately, the plot doesn’t do much to make up for the lack of effects, instead trying to make the movie coast on Jennifer’s shoulders. But without much for her to be acting against (at least until near the end), the task is impossible for anyone who isn’t in the same class as DeNiro or Pacino – and Jennifer isn’t there, yet.

Probably Dark Water‘s biggest flaw, however, seems to be in it’s inability to build up very much tension at all. Sure, there are brief moments of suspense, but the film doesn’t seem to be able to build on each moment to create something that viewers will really dive into, so to speak. Instead, the viewer takes each moment in, then calms down, and the film proceeds slowly to the next moment. Sure, the music is building throughout most of the film, but it seems incongruous with what’s taking place on-screen. The only time this is rectified is when the movie is almost over – for those few moments, the tension is palatable. But, as the saying goes “too little, too late”.

The biggest problem with Dark Water? It was marketed wrong. Plain and simple. For a film like this (just like The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005) – although even that had more effects), don’t go around promoting it as a fright fest, when that isn’t what most of the movie is about. Instead, promote it for what it is supposed to be. Not a horror movie, a drama with horror elements. Focus on the suspense, not on the special effects. Toss in more of Jennifer Connelly, maybe some of her daughter and her imaginary friend. Promote the heck out of the strains that it puts on their relationship.

Basically, attract viewers for what the film actually is, don’t coerce them into going in expecting horror, because most will end up leaving rather disappointed.

This could be worth a rental if you’re a fan of Jennifer Connelly, but if you’re not a huge fan, don’t waste your time – there isn’t much else going for Dark Water.

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