" I thought you were handsome. Then of course you spoke. "
— Helen Hunt, As Good As it Gets

MRQE Top Critic

November

Walks you out of an emotional underworld back into the light —Marty Mapes (review...)

Cox lives three times in November

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Dark Water, a ghost story overlooked during its theatrical run, works well on DVD, gaining dramatic potency from the intimacy of the home theater setting, which is an appropriate bonus for a movie that tugs at the heart even as it tingles the spine.

Double Dip

Gade matches the aplomb of Haley Joel Osment
Gade matches the aplomb of Haley Joel Osment

In some respects, since Dark Water is focused on characters and relationships, the movie is a more absorbing experience in the intimacy of the home. However, while the “Unrated” edition is purported to be “far more terrifying than what was seen in theaters,” the reality is that this cut is two minutes shorter than the theatrical edition and, six months after having seen the original version, the differences are hard to spot. The end result, with or without the two minutes, is the same.

It’s unfortunate Dark Water has fallen into the same DVD trap that has become so popular of late, that of issuing separate “Theatrical” and “Unrated” editions of brand new movies. (As another example, does the world really need an “Unrated” Dodgeball DVD? That’s one in which the film’s running time doesn’t even change, indicating that the differences are solely in the tacked on supplemental features.)

In the studios’ quest for more revenue, the goodwill factor is plummeting when the DVD technology, which was designed to support such things as multiple versions of a movie on a single disc, is ignored in favor of multiple dips in the well and, even more costly, the impending wave of high definition DVD technology.

Should the studios really be fretting over the drop in DVD sales of late? The answer most likely lies in their own greed.

Relax

Dahlia (Jennifer Connelly, A Beautiful Mind) is striking out on her own. Separated from her husband and in search of the best for her daughter, she finds affordable housing on New York’s tiny Roosevelt Island, conveniently situated next to Manhattan Island.

As her realtor, Mr. Murray (John C. Reilly, Chicago), describes it, the architecture was done in the “Brutalist” style. He’s a smooth talker who knows how to prey on the innocent and the desperate. Dahlia is both.

Dahlia eventually snaps up the dank “sub-penthouse” apartment on the 9th floor of a 10-story complex. In reality, the place is a dump that’ll set her back $900 each month. Even a fresh paint job can’t overcome the solemn surroundings and Spartan hallways. Nonetheless, Dahlia and her daughter Ceci(Ariel Gade, Envy), strive to start anew and settle into a schedule that accommodates schooling, work, and visitation rights with Ceci’s father, Kyle (Dougray Scott, Enigma), over in Jersey City.

Be Early

There are some bizarre events that transpire in the apartment right above Dahlia’s. Water is mysteriously left running, flooding the entire top-floor apartment and leaking through Dahlia’s bedroom ceiling. It’s a murky and, yes, dark water. Dahlia seeks the assistance of her newfound lawyer, Jeff Platzer (Tim Roth, Rob Roy) and, true to form, the pipes are quickly fixed and the ceiling patched up.

But the repair job doesn’t last and there’s still something not right about what’s going on upstairs. Even more troubling for Dahlia are the strange behaviors of her daughter, who’s claimed to found a new, albeit imaginary, friend.

As in The Sixth Sense, there is an underlying theme of love and loss. In Dark Water, though, that theme is taken even further, with the chills and spooky moments taking a back seat to the film’s real focus: the lasting, damaging effects of abandonment and abuse.

DVD Extras

The Dark Water Unrated Edition DVD offers a decent collection of supplemental materials that flesh out the making of the film.

For starters, The Sound of Terror: The Subliminal Soundscapes of Dark Water is a good little featurette on the film’s sound design and an appropriate supplement, given the extra special importance the sound plays in the effectiveness of the film.

Analyzing Dark Water Sequences takes a closer look at three sequences. Consider this as a replacement for a running commentary, as essentially this part of the DVD simply presents three scenes with commentary and observations from some of the technical crew. While the DVD jacket indicates there are “viewing options” on this portion, that’s a little overstated. Of the three sequences “analyzed,” only one has multiple audio options (actually, there are seven different audio tracks for the “Interactive Bathroom Sequence,” breaking down the various audio elements). The DVD insert is a little more to the point, indicating that you can either select each sequence “individually or together.” Wow.

Beneath the Surface: The Making of Dark Water breaks down the various stages of the production via behind-the-scenes interviews. While the various segments provide some solid content, they blur with another section of the DVD, An Extraordinary Ensemble, which also offers an assemblage of interviews with the cast and crew. Unfortunately, a good portion of Ensemble’s 26 minutes is a bunch of starry-eyed, complimentary mumbo jumbo. Nonetheless, there are still some good bits that offer additional insight into the film’s production.

Also on tap are two deleted scenes, neither of which adds much to the experience.

Picture and Sound

The widescreen picture (2.35:1) is enhanced for 16x9 screens and moves nicely from the dark and mysterious scenes of the apartment building to the more colorful, albeit still rain-soaked, scenes of New York City.

The 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround Sound, featuring an audio mix enhanced for home theater systems, is a doozie. Considering the movie’s extensive scenes with rain and/or “plumbing issues,” there are plenty of moments when one is tempted to make sure nothing’s really dripping.

The DVD also includes English captions for the hearing impaired as well as French and Spanish subtitles.