Dark Water DVD: Review By Evan "Mushy" Jacobs

Jennifer Connelly proves once again that no matter what the material is she can rise above it.
  • OVERALL
    2.5
    WORTHY
  • Feature
  • Extras
  • Replay Value
THE GOOD
Jennifer Connelly proves once again that no matter what the material is she can rise above it.
THE BAD
Another red herring horror movie that relies too much on fragmented moments and sharp sounds to create it's atmosphere.
THE FEATURE
Dark Water is one of those movies that gets a bit more credibility in some quarters because it was adapted from Koji Suzuki's novel of the same name. Suzuki was also the writer behind The Ring and as we all know, both original movie versions of those films are quite respected. While I understand that many also seem to hold Eastern Culture is being this bastion of everything that is better than Western, it is at this point that I feel I must go another way. Honestly, I don't think that one is better than the other. I think to immediately ascribe the virtues of one culture over the other, just because it happens to be "the other", does nobody any good. In the case of Dark Water, I think this point is further bolstered for better or worse.

I liked this movie but I also felt it was draining. It relied so heavily on it's sound design, and seemed to take so long to get where it was going, I actually had to watch this movie in three screenings because it kept putting me to sleep. East or West, dull is dull, and I just had a hard time with this film. I knew that I would have a hard time in the movie theater, which is probably why I waited to screen it on DVD. This is by no means a bad movie, I just like my horror to be a little more grounded in reality, as opposed to being so lost in it's stylization.
THE EXTRAS
Deleted Scenes; "The Sound of Terror" and Analyzing Dark Water Sequences

With Deleted Scenes totaling 1 minute and 46 seconds, it would be hard to say what I think these scenes added or took away from the movie. Before I watched them, I was wondering if perhaps Director Walter Salles used most of what he shot, and this was the leftovers? After screening them, I then watched them again and realized that these were probably just put on this DVD as an afterthought.

The Sound of Terror: The Subliminal Soundscapes of Dark Water was interesting, even if I never felt while watching the movie that the use of sound was really that subliminal. Actually, it seems to be pretty much in the forefront if you ask me. This piece is essentially interviews with Frank Gaeta and Scott Millan, who served as Sound Designer and Sound Mixer on this film. As sound has a hand in really giving a movie it's tonal feel, these guys are very important to the filmmaking process. While I found it interesting learning where their ideas came from, overall I think this movie relied too much on it's soundscape.

Analyzing Dark Water Sequences is a short, though well broken down, look at some individual scenes and how they were created for this movie. Their titles are The Blue Robe, Wall of Water and Interactive Bathroom Sequence. The Bathroom Sequence is broken down into being able to watch it with a commentary, the raw production sound, ambient sound effects, Automatic Dialogue Replacement and a few other options. These sequences were interesting, but having seen the film and felt that the sound was too involved as it was, I am not sure I needed to sit through this.

The Making of Dark Water and An Extraordinary Ensemble

Why didn't they just cut these two featurettes together as one large piece? They cover a lot of the same ground, even though one obviously deals more with the nuts and bolts of the production. Beneath The Surface: The Making of Dark Water is a broken up into 5 parts. They are Beyond the Horror, An Island Apart, Water By Design, Deep Water and A Director's Vision. They can be viewed individually or as one large chunk. An Extraordinary Ensemble looks at the cast featuring Jennifer Connelly, John C. Reilly, Tim Roth and a bunch of other talented actors who are featured in this film. While I think this piece has points of interest, how many times can you listen to someone say how "great" the other person is an actor or director? I really liked the Making Of (especially the Beyond the Horror segment), just because it seemed to breakdown more of the thought process of the movie in preproduction. It looked at where the ideas for the film come from as it attempted to examine horror in and of itself.
THE VIDEO
Widescreen - 2.35:1 - Enhanced for 16x9 Televisions. This movie has that lifeless, muted color look that is so popular amongst many music video creators. Then, it seems to be only at the end, when the characters in the film are forced to act that we see them come alive. I just don't go for the pure cinema approach, where everything is images with a only a little bit of dialogue. I think pure cinema is when the two are allowed to coexist without the need to kill the other so that one may live. This movie is shot well, it's technically proficient but I think it's low performance at the box office might have something to do with viewers seeing the trailer and not wishing to take this ride. That said, it was so icy and detached that by the time I was supposed to get into it, I felt left out in the cold.
THE AUDIO
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound. Enhanced Home Theater Audio Mix. French and Spanish Subtitles. This movie is so heavily dependent on it's sound design (I have never even seen Enhanced Home Theater Audio Mix on a DVD cover before!), that one has to wonder why they didn't just release the audio and leave things at that? When sound is sparingly used to contribute to character development, I think that is when it is functioning at it's peak. Take for instance the use of audio in the opening half of the movie Midnight Cowboy. Just listening to these faint voices in Joe Buck's (Jon Voight) head we know that something awful has happened to him. Now, contrast that with the soundscape in Dark Water, and while I found it foreboding, I always felt it was greatly overused and almost relied on.
THE PACKAGE
Red is the optimum color on display here with some imagery from the movie, and a shot of Connelly's face as she seems to sense something bad around the corner. The back features a somewhat misleading shot of Connelly being doused with water (misleading for those that are just watching this movie in the hopes of seeing her naked), a description of the film, a "Bonus Features"/Technical Specs listing, some small pictures from the movie and a cast list. I really like the packaging on the front cover even if it does seem ripped from The Skeleton Key.
THE FINAL WORD
I don't know what Walter Salles or Director of Photography Alfonso Beato did, but Jennifer Connelly looks amazing in this movie. Sure, she is a beautiful girl but there is something about this film, that makes her look terrific in every frame. I think it has a lot to do with the use of colors and such, but there is just something about the way she is lit that adds an almost enchanting look. Also, aside from the fact that she seems perfectly cast as the Dahlia character, she seems very much in her element in this movie. I don't know that she would work so well in a Friday the 13th-type set up, but for a moody piece like Dark Water she really brings her best self.

I wanted to like this film a lot more than I did. I was hoping that everything I'd seen in the trailers was wrong, and this film wouldn't seem is stuck in it's stylization as it is. Sadly, I was wrong but if you like that kind of horror movie then take the plunge inside Dark Water.

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Comments (1)

  1. Shelley

    After seeing the Japanese original, this one was disappointing.

    5 years agoby @shelleyFlag