Often times a remake is used to update a classic film for a new generation but when the remake is a mere three years from the original it’s hard to see it as anything other than a Hollywood cash-grab. Of course that’s not always the case as a higher budget re-imagining could actually become a sleeker, more refined version of the original that actually surpasses it. So how does the Dark Water “update” fair against the original, made all those many, many months before? Well, let’s discuss.
The plot in both films follows a single mother in a custody battle trying to find a place for her and her young daughter to live. Low on money, she has to settle for an apartment in a creepy old building where she must not only contend with filthy water leaking from the ceiling but also eerie sightings of a mysterious little girl. Tension builds as the sightings become more frequent and sinister and soon she must unravel the mystery of what really happened in that building in order to try and save her family.
Right off the bat it’s clear that the remake has higher production values, although it better considering the budget is more than seven times that of the original. That aside, the newer version took what had been a tense, subtle and heartbreaking meditation on death and strength of familial bonds and turned it into a cliched fucking ghost story. One of the most overt examples of this was in the way the character of the daughter was portrayed. In the original she simply comes across as a normal little kid and by extension the relationship with her mother presents as much more realistic and natural. In the remake they felt the need to not only make her annoyingly precocious but also invent a side story where she has an “imaginary” ghost friend which makes her character come off as creepy rather than sympathetic.
In typical remake fashion it also feels as though the director is holding your hand throughout and making sure that every aspect is explained, god forbid everyone in the audience not keep up. This can be seen in the way they replace the icy tension of the separated parents with melodramatic bickering, or the over-the-top lengths they go through to make sure you know that the landlord is sleazy and dishonest, eating a sandwich on the phone, answering his cell at the horse track, yeah I get it. Despite the fact that they try to pump up the remake with more drama, dream sequences, back story and unnecessary ancillary characters it simply comes off as boring without the solid, minimalist writing that makes you so invested in the characters and the plot of the original. Surprisingly though, the ending is essentially true to the original, albeit in the most over-dramatic, Hollywood way possible.
All in all, the only positive I can see about this remake is maybe it will bring attention to the lesser known original so that more savvy viewers can seek it out for a far better watching experience.