A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that the film features frightening scenes in which a young mother and her six-year-old daughter are haunted by a seeming ghost. The mother is also disturbed by flashbacks to a troubled past (her alcoholic mother tells her she "hates" her) and a custody battle with her estranged husband. The movie includes some language, tense family scenes, and jump scenes.
Faithful to the short story, which was written by the same person who wrote the book that inspired "The Ring". "Dark Water" is not as good as "The Ring", but it's significantly scarier.
What's the story?
Dahlia's had a troubled childhood and is going through a custody battle over her daughter, Cecilia. When she and Ceci (Ariel Gade) move into a new apartment, Dahlia starts to notice strange things that she connects with previous tenants of the apartment above hers. While she fights her ex, Kyle (Dougray Scott), for custody, she also must deal with the supernatural – the ghost of a little girl abandoned by her parents.
Is it any good?
Pushing the edge of PG-13 with regard to scary scenes and family tensions, DARK WATER's greatest strength is Jennifer Connelly. As Dahlia, a young mother in the midst of divorce, Connelly delivers a delicate, moving, and utterly convincing performance. A remake of director Hideo Nakata and writer Kôji Suzuki's 2002 film (they also made Ringu, source for The Ring), Walter Salles' movie creates a world that is rainy, spooky, and grim.
Dahlia's fear of being a bad mother like her own drives her to take repeated horror-movie style risks (walking into empty rooms, exploring the building's roof at night). Dahlia's experiences -- past and present, inside and outside, night and day -- begin to blur, as she's either believing or fulfilling Kyle's judgment that she's "wacko." She turns to a lawyer, Platzer (Tim Roth), who appears alternately quirky and reassuring. On one level, this seems funny (or ironic), that the lawyer is so unable to bring order to her nightmare; on the other hand, his inability to help suggests that Dahlia is abandoned, much as she has feared since she was a child. Horror movies frequently use the figure of the ineffective or bad mom (not to mention the murderous father; see the recent Hide and Seek), and so Dahlia's selfless resolve seems almost bracing. But Dark Water never develops either her particular dilemmas or responses beyond generic conventions. By film's end, it seems, she's still waiting.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the tensions between mother and daughter, in part caused by the mother's past (indicated by nightmares and flashbacks). How does the daughter's "imaginary friend" worry her mother? How does the antagonism between mother and father exacerbate their daughter's fears of abandonment, loss, and retribution? How does the external world (specifically, the apartment) serve as metaphor for mother and daughter's internal states?
- In theaters: July 8, 2005
- On DVD or streaming: December 27, 2005
- Cast: Jennifer Connelly, Pete Postlethwaite, Tim Roth
- Director: Walter Salles
- Studio: Buena Vista
- Genre: Horror
- Run time: 105 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: mature thematic material, frightening sequences, disturbing images and brief language.
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