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Walter Salles
Jennifer Connelly, John C. Reilly, Tim Roth, Dougray Scott, Pete Postlethwaite, Camryn Manheim, Ariel Gade, Perla Haney-Jardine, Debra Monk
Writing Credits:
Kôji Suzuki (novel, "Honogurai Mizu No Soko Kara"), Hideo Nakata (film, Honogurai mizu no soko kara), Takashige Ichise (film, Honogurai mizu no soko kara), Rafael Yglesias

Some mysteries were never meant to be solved.

Far more terrifying than what was seen in theaters, this special unrated version of Dark Water is a thoroughly absorbing, suspense-filled thriller starring Jennifer Connelly.

Dahlia Williams (Connelly) and her five-year-old daughter are ready to begin a new life together. But their new apartment - dilapidated and worn - suddenly seems to take on a life of its own. Mysterious noises, persistent leaks of dark water and other strange happenings in the deserted apartment above send Dahlia on a haunting and mystifying pursuit - one that unleashes a torrent of living nightmares.

Box Office:
Opening Weekend
$9,939 million on 2657 screens.
Domestic Gross
$25.472 million.

Rated NR

Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1

Runtime: 103 min.
Price: $29.99
Release Date: 12/26/2005

• “Beneath the Surface: The Making of Dark Water” Featurette
• “The Sound of Terror” Featurette
• Deleted Scenes
• “Extraordinary Ensemble” Featurette
• “Analyzing Dark Water Scenes” Featurette
• Sneak Peeks


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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Dark Water: Unrated (2005)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 22, 2005)

In the 20 years since she first became a movie actress, Jennifer Connelly has enjoyed a pretty solid career. She went from teen ingenue in flicks like Labyrinth to putative romantic lead in The Rocketeer to indie queen in Requiem for a Dream. She even snared an Oscar for her role in A Beautiful Mind.

However, she has yet to prove herself as a box office draw. Is it a coincidence that her stabs at blockbusters - Rocketeer, Labyrinth, The Hulk - all took in disappointing returns? Probably, but one must wonder after a while.

Those flicks didn’t put her in the lead, however, so one can point the finger elsewhere. I don’t know if we can do that for 2005’s horror/thriller Dark Water, a box office bust. It looked like it was cut from the same cloth as hits like The Ring and The Grudge, but it failed to bring in the bucks. Both of those movies raked in more than $100 million, while Dark Water struggled to pass the $25 million mark.

So if Connelly ever becomes an “A”-list star, it won’t be in 2005. Water casts her as Dahlia, a single mother going through a contentious divorce from Kyle (Dougray Scott). Custody of six-year-old Ceci (Ariel Glade) causes much of the friction, especially when Dahlia moves a moderate distance away from Kyle.

Dahlia and Ceci settle into a grotty but affordable place. Strange things immediately start to occur. Water leaks cause massive problems in the bedroom, and Ceci develops an imaginary friend who gets her into trouble at school. Already psychologically fragile due to childhood abandonment and abuse, Dahlia starts to go over the edge as the various problems intensify. The movie follows these areas as Dahlia questions her own sanity.

To the film’s credit, we do the same. Too many horror flicks make it far too clear which side to believe. Usually they put us in the position where we wholeheartedly accept the supernatural explanation. After all, that’s the more interesting way to tell a story; it’s not as much fun to find out that your lead character’s just a nutbag. That means the movies spell things out for us in such a way that we side with the main participants and never really buy into more “real world” explanations.

Dark Water balances those two sides well. From start to finish, it casts a creepy tone as it slowly draws us into its world. However, it doesn’t overwhelm us with these elements. It also makes sure that everything has a pretty reasonable explanation. Again, a lot of the time, films that go down that path really stretch credulity to support their non-supernatural sides. That doesn’t happen with Water, as we really do question whether Dahlia’s visions are real or imagined.

Much of the credit goes to a solid performance from Connelly. Despite many occasions during which she could go wild, she remains restrained as she doesn’t indulge in camp horror overacting. Because of this, Dahlia feels more real, and the movie sucks us into her plight more effectively.

I don’t want to imply that Dark Water offers a perfect horror movie or that it doesn’t use some of the standard genre jolts. It does stick with some tried and true components, but it backs them up with a surprisingly rich and emotional narrative. The film draws us in and keeps us off-guard. That can’t be said of most horror flicks, so Water earns credit as something a little different.

Note that this DVD offers an unrated version of Dark Water. I’d love to tell you how it differs from the theatrical edition, but I’m afraid I have no idea. I couldn’t find any information about changes, though it appears the unrated cut is actually a couple of minutes shorter than the theatrical version. From what I’ve read, the latter runs 105 minutes, while the unrated movie clocks in at 103 minutes.

The DVD Grades: Picture B-/ Audio B+/ Bonus C+

Dark Water appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. A drab transfer, the presentation occasionally excelled, but it usually looked too dull.

Sharpness varied a bit. Most of the movie came across as reasonably defined and concise. However, exceptions occurred, as the film occasionally looked somewhat soft and tentative. No jagged edges or shimmering occurred, but I noticed moderate edge enhancement at times. As for source defects, a few examples of specks popped up during the film.

As with most modern horror films, not many colors cropped up in Water. Some shots presented relatively natural tones, but much of the movie used a green tint. This affected most of the hues, and they looked a little heavy. I think this mainly reflected the production design, though. Blacks tended to be slightly inky, but remained acceptably dense for the most part. Shadows also were mildly heavy and not quite as cleanly delineated as I’d like. No serious problems marred the image, but it showed enough small concerns to get a “B-“.

I felt the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Dark Water was more positive. The soundfield took full use of the many eerie scenes. The constant presence of water made for an engulfing experience, as those elements meshed together well. Other elements popped up from the speakers along the way, and the whole package gave us a strong sense of setting that accentuated the creepiness.

Audio quality fared well. Speech was always natural and crisp, with no edginess or issues connected to intelligibility. Music appeared dynamic and full, while effects presented the greatest impact. The scenes that jolted us offered deep, dynamic elements that punched us at the appropriate times. This ended up as a solid mix.

Heading to the DVD’s extras, we start with Beneath the Surface: The Making of Dark Water. This 15-minute and 48-second featurette mixes movie clips, behind the scenes bits, and comments from director Walter Salles, screenwriter Rafael Yglesias, executive producer Ashley Kramer, producer Bill Mechanic, production designer Therese DePrez, and actors Jennifer Connelly, John C. Reilly, Dougray Scott, Tim Roth, Ariel Glade, and Pete Postlethwaite. The program covers the movie’s themes/story and its attempts to work within the horror genre, the Roosevelt Island setting, Salles’ influence on the production, set design and attempts at realism, and dealing with the omnipresent water.

DePrez’s discussion of production design offers easily the best part of the program. She gives us many nice insights into her work. Unfortunately, the rest of the show is less valuable. The clips rush through the subjects and don’t dig into them well. There’s enough here to be acceptably worthwhile, but don’t expect a great feature.

We examine audio with the seven-minute and 19-second The Sound of Terror. It presents notes from Salles, re-recording mixer Scott Millan, sound supervisor/sound designer Frank Gaeta, associate editor Maria Montoreano, and editor Daniel Rezende. They tell us a lot about the specifics of the sound design as well as general choices in regard to tone. This turns into a tight and informative little piece.

Two Deleted Scenes fill a total of one minute, 50 seconds. These include “Dahlia at the Laundromat” and “Ceci and Kyle in the Car”. “Laundromat” shows Dahlia as she relates her suspicions about what happened to the residents of 10-F, while “Ceci” just shows her and her dad as they get some things from the apartment. The latter isn’t very interesting, but “Laundromat” is mildly intriguing.

For a look at the filmmakers, we head to Extraordinary Ensemble. The 25-minute and 55-second program features remarks from Connelly, Mechanic, Salles, Yglesias, Reilly, Mechanic, Roth, Postlethwaite, Scott, Glade, Rezende, Gaeta, Millan, Montoreano and DePrez. “Ensemble” consists of brief clips focused on various participants. We go through notes about Yglesias, Salles, Connelly, Kramer, Glade, Reilly, Roth, Postlethwaite, Scott, DePrez, Rezende, Rezende, Gaeta, Millan, actor Camryn Manheim, composer Angelo Badalamenti, and director of photography Affonso Beato.

These cover basic notes about the filmmakers and some specifics about their work on the flick. They don’t follow a concise line, but they flesh out the movie reasonably well. We get some fun insights and trivia bits through these clips. The best parts show Glade’s audition tapes, and I also like info about Reilly’s inspirations. Some of them offer little more than inane happy talk, but there’re some nice pieces on display.

For the final featurette, we get Analyzing Dark Water Scenes. This splits into three sequences. “Blue Robe” (two minutes, 49 seconds) and “Wall of Water” (2:46) work similarly. They present remarks from Rezende, Montoreano, Mechanic, Salles and DePrez. “Robe” looks at that scene’s editing, while “Water” examines production design, effects and cutting for its sequence. Both provide some solid insights and give us good specifics about the issues.

“Interactive Bathroom Sequence” gets more ambitious. It lets us watch the scene with any of six different soundtracks: “Raw Production Sound”, “Ambient Sound Effects”, “ADR”, “Foley Sound Effects”, “Music” and “Final Mix”. We can also check it out with an audio commentary from Scott Millan. Individually, the clip runs 98 seconds, but multiply that times seven if you choose to examine all the options in full and it’ll take significantly longer to get through it.

Millan gives us some notes about the various elements used for the mix and why these were chosen. I like this presentation and think it’s a cool way to break down the sequence. It certainly digs into the elements in a myriad of ways.

The DVD opens with some ads. We get trailers for Annapolis, Flightplan, and Shopgirl. These also appear in the DVD’s Sneak Peeks area along with previews for Sin City, Everything You Want, Shadows in the Sun, and Season Two of Lost.

I’ve not gotten much out of other horror flicks adapted from Japanese films, but Dark Water turns out to be the exception to that rule. Subtle, creepy and involving, it provides a surprisingly successful effort. The DVD offers fairly mediocre audio along with pretty solid audio. It lacks much in the way of extras, though. This isn’t a great DVD, but the movie is good enough to merit at least a rental.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.9333 Stars Number of Votes: 15
4 3:
View Averages for all rated titles.