Smooth sailing in Dark Water

The pacy horror flick keeps you on your seat’s edge, writes Ervell E. Menezes

Jennifer Connelly in a still from Dark Water
Jennifer Connelly in a still from Dark Water

Remember Brazilian director Walter Selles whose Motorcycle Diaries was among the best films of IFFI 2004 in Goa ? Well, he makes his impressive Hollywood debut in an eerie, spooky horror movie called Dark Water. And guess what, he has A Beautiful Mind lead actress Jennifer Connelly doing the honours in this film. Also in this dream team is the little-known but imaginative scriptwriter Rafael Iglesias who makes his presence felt.

Based on an adaptation of a Japanese shocker by Hideo Nakata, Dark Water appears to be yet another attempt to cash in on the very much in vogue Asian horror genre. Considering that it is Selles first foray in the horror genre he does a good job without resorting to blood and gore and imbuing the subject with loads of suspense.

There may be similarities with Rosemary’s Baby and The Sixth Sense but there is clearly a difference in class. Those were classics. Dark Water never even has pretensions of even qualifying for that status. But it gets off to as flying a start as Selles weaves a sinister atmosphere which he is able to sustain for long periods. It is punctuated, of course, by occasional scares which have a way of disguising themselves.

A recently divorced Dahlia Williams (Jennifer Connelly) and her five-year-old daughter Ceci (Ariel Gade, who is a younger version of Dakota Fanning in Hide and Seek) move into a decrepit New York apartment where the elevator creaks, the plumbing is a disaster and the ceiling is dripping with water….yes dark water.

It has to do of course with the ghost of a child who had been drowned in unfathomable circumstances. May be the plot is rather over-exaggerated but thanks to taut editing and skilful handling of the narrative, the director has the viewer almost spellbound. Unlike most racy, pacy, Hollywood films, this one has a halting, almost lackadaisical pace.

The mother comes close to a nervous breakdown (unlike Robert De Niro who is quite leaden in Hide and Seek). In fact, it is Connelly who gives the film its most soulful moments supported by a histrionically adept Ariel Gade as the child actress. John C. Reilly as the clever broker and Tim Roth as the smooth-talking attorney have good cameos which add to the overall impact. Cinematographer Affonso Beato, who shot Pedro Almadavor’s All About My Mother enhances the visuals with his caressing camerawork.

So Dark Water may not be the last word in horror but it surely is worth taking a look at in today’s paucity of good Hollywood product.