Monday, June 25, 2007

Sepia just isn't scary enough. How about mauve?

Given the notorious excesses of Hollywood movies, it feels unfair to criticize one for being too understated, but that's very much the problem with the American remake of Dark Water.
Now, anyone who's ever rented should be able to relate to the disturbing premise of being haunted by terrible plumbing problems. In fact, the first time I tried to watch the Japanese original, I had a problem with my kitchen sink, and had to shut the DVD off after about fifteen minutes because it was freaking me out so much. I only managed to watch it after the plumber came.

With the American version, however, it's like they were trying to bore us on purpose so we'd take it seriously. I popped in the Hideo Nakata version just to see if I was being totally unfair, and, uh, nope. Just doing a random Chapter Forward brought me to some great eerie visuals from the original with no correspondence in the new one. the original was also fairly slow-moving, in an old-fashioned ghost story style, but tensely, not lethargically so. The new one is just: depressed woman in custody battle. For most of the running time, all they attempt to spook us with is the sepia color scheme.

While the idea of being haunted by a Hello Kitty bag is pretty amusing, you don't really get the idea she's being haunted by it. It just kinds of turns up. A little girl having an imaginary friend isn't spooky when it's removed from all context. When the Mom protests that having an imaginary friend is "normal," I was nodding and saying to myself, exactly. That's why this isn't scary! The Japanese version gave us some context and some reason to believe that this wasn't a normal imaginary friend but in fact a little dead girl. Even the all-important stain in the ceiling was the Japanese version, it drips onto the protagonist's face (ewww), all over her bed, really does some damage. It almost does seem like it has a life of its own. In the American version, all it really does is look bad. And I guess at one point Jennifer Connelly puts a bucket under it. But that has nowhere near the creep factor. Even the scene where hair comes out of the faucet into the drinking glass...and come on, that would be nasty!... hardly registers.

The scariest thing about the movie is the discovery that it's Tim Roth playing the lawyer. Unreal! I wouldn't have recognized him in a million years.

Then in the afternoon, for an oddball double feature, I went to the actual theater to see Fantastic Four 2: Rise of the Silver Surfer. Not that I've seen Fantastic Four 1, or intend to, but friends were going, and it was air conditioned. Man, it's been a while since I've been to a PG-rated movie! The trailers were mostly for Disney films, which was really odd. I was like, where's that Hostel 2 trailer I see every time I go to a movie? Then there was a new trailer for the upcoming Die Hard sequel, and it still doesn't make me want to see it. And weirdest of all: a commercial for Chef Boyardee Ravioli. At least with the Pepsi commercials, they actually sell Pepsi at the theaters, so it doesn't seem totally insane.

Not much to say about the movie itself, and since I overheard people in the audience saying things like "awesome," I'm obviously not the target audience. But a few observations: I was distracted by Jessica Alba's series of Barbie doll hairdos (if the Bratz movie hits big, Alba can totally play Barbie!), and it was very cute how she put on a pair of glasses when she wanted to look smart. Like it was a movie from the 50s or something. When he wasn't uttering inane technobabble about the molecular level, I did notice that Ioan Gruffudd is actually pretty cute. Maybe I'll have to give that Horatio Hornblower show a chance.

I also thought that anyone getting married with that much pomp and fuss deserves to have their "big day" interrupted by mysterious cosmic attacks, and I'd like to see the trend followed on all the reality shows following people's over-the-top weddings and sweet 16 parties.

Mostly, though, I kept thinking about Michael Martone's hilarious story "The Sex Life of the Fantastic Four." If only he were as famous as Jessica Alba, it would be a better world. Not that I'd want to see him play a stripper, or flirt with Justin Timberlake, or any of the thing's you gotta do...

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