Dark Water (2005)

Dark Water was a prime candidate for being remade. Well, if you ignore the fact that the original was only made three years ago, and could've just been imported as is, with some English subtitles.

Obviously filmmakers are under the impression that cinemagoers are stupid, though, because the Dark Water remake increases its own pointlessness by over explaining every detail. The original was perhaps rather less than subtle, with ghostly little girls lurking in every available shadow, but the film worked as a drama, leading to its ultimately rather tragic climax. This time around, every aspect of Dark Water is over explained: it's made abundantly clear that Dahlia's mother was neglectful, as flashbacks and nightmares proliferate. The parallels between Dahlia's childhood and Natasha's rather tragic story are shoved down our throats; as if we couldn't possibly figure them out for ourselves the first ten times we were shown. Dahlia's final decision -- to abandon her own child in favour of the ghost girl -- is overdone and her motives made rather less ambiguous than they originally were, and yes, I know I've just spoiled the ending for you, but I'm trying to save you -- don't see this movie.

Melodramatics and over explaining aside, the main problem with Dark Water is that it's not scary. In the original, there was a growing sense of menace every time Mitsuko or one of her accessories made an appearance; the finale provided at least two genuinely frightening shots. These appear to have been forgotten -- and actually, it's sometimes hard to tell the difference between Natasha and Ceci. That might've been intentional, but it makes it difficult to tell when or why we're supposed to be afraid. While Mitsuko's repulsive rotting face verged on being slightly ridiculously overdone in the original, leaving her as simply a pretty little girl again leaves nothing to be scared of. On the self-referentiality front: obviously Dark Water owes a lot to the original and to Ring. The Ring Two confuses matters somewhat by borrowing the plot from the original Dark Water, but that's okay, because the remake wasn't using it, anyway; instead, it seems to have thieved the structure of The Ring, including a scene in which the body of the dead girl is retrieved and everyone goes home happy, the estranged parents of the imperilled child all but reconciled. The problem is, Dark Water forgot that this false closure worked in The Ring because the real scare was yet to come -- there's absolutely nothing here to make you hide behind a cushion. Nothing.

There are only two points which were worthwhile, and both only because they provide material for endless mockery. John C. Reilley's delivery of the line "Did you say upstairs?" will be funny for the rest of eternity; Pete Postlethwaite's accent and demand for "Doll!" are similarly laughably awful. Note to filmmakers: most people can read, we don't need any more remakes. End of.

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