DARK WATER film review

5/5 stars (for the BACKSTORY)

3/5 stars (if watched at face value)

 

Dark Water is a 2005 American horror film directed by Walter Salles, starring Jennifer
Connelly and Tim Roth. The film is a remake of the 2002 Japanese film of the same name which is in turn based on the short story “Floating Water” by Koji Suzuki, who also wrote the Ring Trilogy. The film also stars John C. Reilly. 

The film was released on July 8, 2005, to mixed reviews and grossed almost $50 million worldwide.

My 20-year old daughter and I started watching this random movie on Cinemax the other night. We neither one had even heard of it before, but I’ve since discovered this movie is anything but random or unheard of.  More on that in a bit.

The movie is set on Roosevelt Island in Manhattan and all of the action takes place in a dilapidated apartment building. This is the story of a newly divorced woman (Dahlia) and her kindergarten-aged daughter (Cecilia) moving out on their own, away from the cheating ex-husband. The neighborhood is rundown, the apartment buildings are stacked on top of each other and everything is gray and depressing. Very post-apocalyptic. This is what $900/month could get you in 2005 NYC.

Dahlia keeps having a problem with water leaking from an above empty apartment into hers and she has all kinds of issues getting it repaired. The super is a strange angry man and there are loud noises coming from the supposedly vacant apartment. All manner of weirdness ensues. Meanwhile, Cecilia suddenly has a new imaginary friend that keeps getting her into trouble at school. The plot is very much centered on this dark icky water that is spilling through their ceiling.

This isn’t a horror film, it is more of a family drama with a supernatural element thrown in. There is a surprise ending (plot twist!) and it’s a decent little movie. It’s no Sixth Sense, but it’s certainly not bad either.

We immediately noticed something strange about this story and setting.  Here’s the thing, this movie is infamous for another reason. The setting includes an old looking water tower on the roof of the apartment building. My daughter and I looked at each other and said immediately “THIS LOOKS LIKE THE CECIL HOTEL!” That’s the only building we’ve ever seen with a water tower on top of it.  If you’re into unsolved mysteries, you probably have seen the strange footage of the young Canadian woman, Elisa Lam. The footage shows her acting really bizarre in the hotel elevator at 2 AM before she disappeared. Her body was later found in that water tower on top of the Los Angeles Cecil Hotel. A quick search of YouTube will give you hundreds of theories and conspiracies about the events that led to her death.

There are few logical explanations of why she died, but her weird behavior, the haunted history of the Cecil Hotel, and the fact that police were not forthcoming with what they found all combined to make a perfect storm of controversy in this young woman’s death.

I know I’m rambling, I get overly invested in unsolved true crime cases. Is this a crime or a suicide? We still don’t know for sure, the coroner did rule that she died of drowning, but no word on why or how. My daughter and I even visited the L.A. hotel last summer in hopes of….I don’t know. Getting a feeling? However,  I had never heard of this movie and all the similarities to the case.

Back to the movie, Dark Water. We immediately started googling about it as the closing credits began, since we couldn’t figure out why this story was familiar.  I suggest you give yourself about 3 hours if you start digging too,  it is one deep rabbit hole. If you are just now looking into this story, you would assume that the movie was loosely based on the Elisa Lam case. Here’s the thing:  Dark Water was filmed years BEFORE the actual incident at the Cecil Hotel. WHAT???  Some similarities that we noticed:Unknown-1.jpeg

  • of course the name, Cecil, with the movie character, Cecilia
  • The Black Dahlia was known to frequent the Cecil hotel and is also the name of the mother in the movie
  • Cecilia’s red jacket looks like Elisa Lam’s red hoodie in the elevator footage
  • In both the film and the Elisa Lam case, guests complained of foul tasting, dark water coming from their taps. Disgustingly, this was due to the decomposing body in the water tank.

There are countless other creepy connections, but these are the the highlights that we picked up on with no idea that Dark Water had already been matched up by thousands of other interested people. Amazon has a great deal on the DVD!  click here >   Dark Water

IN A DARK, DARK WOOD

4/5 Stars

  • Author: Ruth Ware
  • Published August 4th 2015 by Simon & Schuster Audio
  • Audio book narrated by Imogen Church
  • 9 hrs and 34 mins

There have been many reviews for the regular book version of IN A DARK, DARK WOOD by Ruth Ware, but my review is for the audio version. I have had the actual book for awhile now and for some reason, every time I picked it up I just could not stay with it due to my unfortunately short attention span. As happens so many times, a beautifully made audio version of the same book will quickly suck me in, even if I just read the same words myself and they seemed so uninteresting in my own head. The fabulous Imogen Church is the narrator, she is wonderful and a one-woman show, acting out all the roles with authentically nuanced personality traits. I had previously enjoyed her narrations of Alex Marwood’s THE KILLER NEXT DOOR and all the BRIDGET JONES’S DIARY books by Helen Fielding. Ms. Church is also reading Ruth Ware’s next two books and I will definitely be listening.

I LOVE listening to this book. For me, the audio version is much more entertaining and suspenseful than reading it with my own eyeballs. So, maybe, Reese Witherspoon will take it up the next step and the movie version will be even better!!? (fingers crossed!). The story revolves around six frenemies tucked away for a “hen party” in a cottage in a dark wood far away from civilization. I guarantee that you have never been to a bachelorette party like this. The creepy location, the sarcastic barbs the “friends” hurl on each other, the drug use, the Ouji board playing, and last, but not least, clay pigeon shooting as the main activity, all work together to create plenty of foreshadowing of the murder we know is going to happen. But, which of the friends is the killer? And who gets killed? The book is written in a first person POV by Nora who has unfortunately suffered a terrible head trauma and is, therefore, a most unreliable narrator (yippeeeee, I love unreliable narrators!).

The story pays homage to the Agatha Christie “locked room” murder motif, one of many a mystery lover’s favorite plot devices. You will figure out the ending way before the main character does (sadly, no plot twist), but it is still a really well written psychological mystery and an excellent debut for Ruth Ware. THE WOMAN IN CABIN 10 is wildly popular and that’s always a plus for a new author, to be on the upward trajectory. I’m hearing great things about her third book, THE LYING GAME, to be published July 25, 2017.

click here to get your Audio version! In a Dark, Dark Wood

ARE YOU SLEEPING

4/5 Stars

  • Kindle Edition, 320 pages Hardcover 336 pages
  • Author: Kathleen Barber35660402
  • Publication: August 1st 2017 by Gallery Books

Josie’s father was murdered by a teenage neighbor ten years ago, when she was still a girl. The killer was sent to prison and Josie’s family fell apart. Her mother, an emotional wreck, up and left Josie and her twin sister, Lanie, to join a cult in Northern California. She never saw or spoke to her daughters again. Josie and Lanie, the twins, are left to live their teenage years with their Aunt Amelia and cousin Ellen. Lanie was the single eyewitness to the murder, the reason the killer was caught and sentenced to life. She was also the more rebellious of the two girls and she ends up on a dangerous path of truancy, drugs and law-breaking. In a fit of anger, she yells at Josie to just go away and leave her alone.

Josie did go away. She changed her last name. She backpacked the world and met a wonderful guy, Caleb. They settled in Brooklyn and she never explained her horrific family history or even that she had a twin sister. It was all too painful for her and she wanted to keep Caleb free from the drama of her past.

Along comes the 21st century journalistic phenomenon: the true crime podcast. And guess what crime Poppy Parnell, the perky blogger, wants to dig up and examine with a fine tooth comb? Yep, the murder of Josie’s dad. Josie is absolutely terror-stricken to hear people on the subway and in grocery stores discussing the podcast, her personal life horror show openly tweeted about by complete strangers. It seems like everyone is obsessed with “Reconsidered” the podcast. Was the wrong man convicted? There are witnesses that place the teenage killer at a park miles away from the crime. He didn’t have a weapon.

When Josie’s mother hangs herself during the height of the podcast mania, Josie finds herself having to face all the lies she has told Caleb and all the details of her past. She must reconnect with her twin sister, Lanie, and ask her once and for all about the night of the murder. Was Lanie honest about that night?

The story is fast-moving and suspenseful. I love the podcast element to this book (Ask me about UP AND VANISHED, please!). There is a whole sub-theme about public shaming on social media. I wish the plot had been a bit twistier and darker. It’s borderline, dare I say it… Predictable. You will figure out “whodunnit” before the big reveal,  but it is not boring. The characters are very real and fleshed out. I absolutely love Josie’s cousin, Ellen, she is hilarious.

ARE YOU SLEEPING reminds me very much of THE LUCKIEST GIRL ALIVE and RECONSTRUCTING AMELIA. If you liked those books, you will love this one, too.

click on any image above for AMAZON U.S.

THE SECRETS SHE KEEPS

 3/5 Stars

  • Published July 11th 2017 by Scribner
  • Author: Michael Robotham

Let’s just put it out there: this is no Tana French or Paula Hawkins psychological thriller.  Sorry. Keeping’ it real. Waaah waah.

Never mind the claims invariably to head the jacket reviews, there is NOT a Gone Girl ending twist in THE SECRETS SHE KEEPS.  However, this book is one heck of a suspenseful page turner (and how about that book cover? LOVE). I read it so fast, my husband couldn’t believe it when I said I was done.  The chapters are very short and are told from the different characters’ POV. I think just under 4 hours of reading an entire novel is indeed a record for me.

The main characters, Meghan and Agatha, are not necessarily likable, but very interesting. I want to know more about them! Sadly, there isn’t much psychological speculation delved into in the book.  Most of the story is written in first person dialogue and the dialogue is written so realistically, you will find yourself hooked from the first page.

If you, like millions of readers, including myself, adored The Girl on the Train, you will pick up on the same atmospheric feel with THE SECRETS SHE KEEPS.  I love that British vibe! There is a lot of train riding, a little obsessive spying done by Agatha (perfect name), and teapots and biscuits are frequently mentioned throughout the book.

If I could presume to subtitle this book, it would be more aptly called Girl On the Train-Lite. It is the perfect book to carry down to the pool and read quickly even if you are frequently interrupted or distracted by your kids, you will have no trouble jumping right back into the plot.

The most interesting part of this story is truly the character of Agatha. She is somewhat of a deliciously unreliable narrator on her chapters (the chapters go back and forth between Meghan and Agatha), you are never quite sure if she telling us the truth.  I wavered between sympathy, disgust, and sadness for her character.  I do so wish there were more layers to the characters and the plot, that would definitely have earned a four star from me.

This book has a publication date for July 11, 2017.  If you are looking for a light suspenseful story, this is perfect.
Available now Amazon U.S.   >      The Secrets She Keeps: A Novel

 

Playster vs. Audible

July 13, 2017

I’ve been trying out the new Playster streaming service for a month free and have been cramming in as many audio books as possible, since they offer unlimited books, music, movies and games for the same price ($14.95 USD per month) as Audible (one book per month).

Unlike Audible, Playster does not have a player app for your device that allows you to stop and start your audio book and keep track of your spot in the “book”.  That one little detail is huge!!!  I have had so much trouble with the interface, it doesn’t even compare to Audible in ease. You know how it is….you’re out walking, got the earbuds in, listening to a great mystery. You come home, stop the book, take a shower, go back to listening while you cook dinner. When you go back to Audible, it’s a piece of cake. You click open the app and push play to get right back in exactly where you left off.   NOT WITH PLAYSTER!  Click open the app, you have to sign in every time(annoying) and literally start searching for the book every time.  THEN, after searching and finally finding it, you have to figure out yourself where you left off!!!  Even after selecting chapter 7, for example, sometimes it will start inexplicably at say, chapter 10. NOOOOOOOO!! That’s the very definition of a SPOILER –GEEZ…It’s frikkin’ frustrating as hell!

Multiply this process about a million times and you will be as ready to toss Playster to the curb as I am. If I hadn’t had the actual book, I would never know what chapter the audio version should be on. And usually you don’t have the real book, hence the beauty of audio.  They have a “My Audio Books” section that supposedly you can save your book to, but it must have a bug, because it doesn’t work. An obvious non-reader person designed the Playster audio book portion; that is the only reason I can come up with for such major inadequacies.

To sum it up: on Playster, yes, you do get unlimited books to listen to (they seem to have thousands of titles, I’ve listened to In a Dark, Dark Wood; Americanah; The Woman in Cabin 10) on Playster. Each book was excruciatingly painful to get through because of the unpredictable start and stop points.  In Playster, you do not own the audio books like you do with Audible. They live in the Playster app and you can revisit them as long as you are a monthly Playster member.  All the music is great and easy to use, similar to Spotify in graphics and interface.  I have not checked out the movies or games. But man, they have got to figure out the audiobooks. Hands down, Audible is a thousand times better for audiobooks, even if it costs more.

Have you tried Playster? Let me know your experience with it! Maybe I’m just too untechnified (made-up word) to figure it out.

SEE WHAT I HAVE DONE

Unknown-14/5 Stars

  • Author: Sarah Schmidt
  • Expected publication:  August 1st 2017 by Atlantic Monthly Press
  • Hardcover, 336 pages

Sarah Schmidt is a brilliant, exciting new author hailing from Australia. Her debut novel, SEE WHAT I HAVE DONE, is a clever reimagining of a well-known American murder mystery. (Not only that, but what about that gorgeous cover? I gotta thing for creepy looking bird covers.)

On a sweltering August morning in 1892, Lizzie Borden’s father and stepmother were hacked to death in their Massachusetts home with a hatchet. Lizzie was accused of the murders, locked up for ten months and tried in court. She was acquitted by the jury of twelve men. “The jurymen considered the fact that no one found blood on Lizzie, considered the fact that the house showed no signs of forced entry, considered the fact that Andrew could be a very hard man, considered that there was no murder weapon found.” But, ultimately, they decided Lizzie was innocent because “women just don’t do this type of crime.”

These are the facts. But there are more layers in this horror story than the dust that has built up on the Borden parlor rug. The author lures readers like a witch’s bony finger beckoning, inviting you to a front row seat in this dysfunctional, hateful family psychodrama. The writing is cryptic, creepy, and dreamy. The disturbed childish thoughts endlessly spit out of Lizzie’s mind. It is a suffocating book with no escape.

While the writing is of the highest quality, the content is so gruesome and macabre, I can only recommend SEE WHAT I HAVE DONE with reservations. This is not for the namby-pamby reader. I consider myself somewhat stouthearted, but I turned absolutely green around the gills while reading this book with my morning oatmeal.  I REPEAT: Do not eat and read this book at the same time unless you have a cast iron stomach. I don’t have a total count on how many times the words blood, vomit, hair, congealed or thick fluids is used, but trust me, it is up there.

Oh and by the way, prepare yourself to find unpleasant body odors described in detail and often. You get the idea, now proceed with caution, it’s an excellent story.

AMAZON link See What I Have Done

THE CHILD

 

4/5 Stars

  • Author: Fiona Barton
  • Published June 29th 2017 by Transworld Digital (first published June 27th 2017)

I guess I’m one of the few mystery lovers on the planet that didn’t read Fiona Barton’s debut, The Widow, last year. The Widow won all kinds of awards, including an NPR Best Book of 2016 accolade.

I stumbled onto The Child, the author’s sophomore attempt, and was very pleasantly surprised. It is a snappy, cozy little Brit mystery with interesting characters and a major plot twist ending. No one changes bodies or minds or whatever,  yet Fiona Barton masterfully weaves all the clues together to form a satisfying, realistic and just creepy enough ending.

I really, really like the main character, Kate Waters. She is an old-school reporter still fighting for respect as a newspaper woman in a digital age. Remember newspaper journalists? I kind of miss those hard-hitting-go-after-the-story-characters-despite-police-warnings to back off (sorry for all the hyphens!). Whatever happened to those guys? Nowadays the local news reports are mostly filled with Facebook and Twitter highlights. The character, Kate Waters, is in The Widow, but the books are not part of a series. Read either one first, it won’t matter to the plot, and I’m sure you will enjoy both.

There are a handful of other characters in the book and the author does not bog down in the details of their lives, making for fast and furious page turning. The plot is somewhat complicated, not overly so, and the surprise ending is completely plausible. Yes!

This must be the year of missing baby mysteries, but unlike Michael Robotham’s The Secrets She Keeps, The Child is multi-layered story and much more interesting mainly due to the relatable character of Kate Waters. This is definitely a page-turner for your Summer 2017 TBR stack. Now please excuse me while I go download The Widow.

AMAZON The Child The Child
AMAZON The Widow The Widow