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November 30, 2023

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Dark Water’ shallow, despite great acting

Grade: C

Usually, when a movie is billed as a certain genre, such as ‘action’ or ‘comedy,’ you’re inclined to believe it’s accurate.

But moviegoers who read that ‘Dark Water’ is a dramatic thriller will be sorely disappointed. On the contrary, it’s a boring, self-absorbed film that keeps turning the ignition but never manages to get suspense’s engine started.

It tells the story of a mother, Dahlia (Jennifer Connelly), as she and her young daughter, Ceci (Ariel Gade), move into a run-down apartment.

Dahlia has just gone through a messy divorce, the details of which she is still working out with her cynical ex-husband through meetings with a pair of mediators.

Strange, black water seeps through their apartment’s ceiling and, despite several calls to the building’s superintendent, it continually returns to cause discomfort for the mother and daughter and all-too-forced mystery for the viewers.

The adventurous Ceci ventures to the next floor up and begins to unfold the reason behind the ubiquitous dark water with the help of an ‘imaginary friend.’

The buildup to the movie’s final revelation is slow and methodical, carefully setting pieces of dialog and visual cues in place. It would be an excellent presentation if it actually meant something in the end.

Unfortunately for those in the audience, the mystery ends up less than thrilling.

The surprise won’t be ruined here, but it would be safe to say that it’s more of a ‘Huh, really,’ than an ‘Oh my God, no way!’

To make it worse, the movie never gets suspenseful. About an hour into the film, a scene will occur that might make audiences think, ‘Finally, it’s going to start getting scary, now.’

But it’s a false alarm and the real alarm never comes.

It’s a shame because such great acting is delivered in this film.

Connelly is intense, deep and believable as a stressed-out mom who’s stretching herself thin to take care of her child.

Gade is adorable and her performance shines whether the scene calls for her to anxiously examine a room or warmly joke with her on-screen mother.

Even the supporting cast does its job well most notably, with Pete Postlethwaite playing a crusty, obnoxious and likeable superintendent.

Ultimately, these performances are at least a little tainted considering the plot, which was written by the creator of ‘The Ring,’ fails to live up to that spiritual predecessor. Perhaps something was lost in ‘Dark Water’s’ conversion from its original Japanese release to its American version. In the end, though, it’s more like a TV drama than a suspense thriller.

For those who can’t take a lot of horror but like to get a little uncomfortable, Dark Water will deliver the mild tension you’re looking for.

Anyone searching for the next big scare, keep searching.

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