Director – M. Night Shyamalan
Cast – Paul Giamatti, Bryce Dallas Howard, Jeffrey Wright, Bob Balaban, Sarita Choudhury, Cindy Cheung, M. Night Shyamalan, Freddy Rodriguez, Jared Harris
Release Year – 2006
Reviewed by John of the Dead
Roughly two years after his brilliantly written yet unfortunately mis-advertised love/hate film “The Village” debuted in theaters, M. Night Shyamalan pushed his bruised ego aside and gave us another love/hate film…”Lady in the Water”. I was skeptical as to whether or not I should review this film given it is not much of a “horror” film, but I do make exceptions for films that include horror elements, and this film does just that.
This flick stars the excellent Paul Giamatti as Cleveland Heep, an apartment manager with a very bad stuttering speech impediment. He keeps getting complaints that someone is swimming in the pool late at night and clogging up the pool’s filters. One night he goes out to investigate and finds a naked woman in the pool. He slips and knocks himself out in the pool only to awaken the next morning to the naked woman who saved his life. She tells him that her name is a “Narf” named Story, she is from the Blue World(water). After some investigation he learns that a “Narf” is a fictional character from an old bedtime story that comes to our world with a mission for mankind. Story is having trouble going back “home” after completing her mission thanks to a renegade creature known as a “Scrunt”, which has no plans of letting her return. Mr. Heep must now gather his tenants up in an attempt to help her get back home and pay her back for the help she gave to mankind.
I really liked this story. This really is not a horror film, and falls more into the fantasy/horror genre much like “Pan’s Labyrinth”. M. Night Shyamalan manages to once again put forth a very unique story that those with an OPEN MIND should find enjoyable, if not captivating. He wrote this film’s plot as a bedtime fairy tale that he made up for his children, and you can really see the passion and heart he put into this film. All of his characters are solid and are portrayed brilliantly by their actors. Oscar winner Paul Giamatti is amazing as always, and his co-lead Bryce Dallas Howard, who portrays Story, manages to once again pull off a unique character in excellent fashion. The supporting actors in this film portray the rest of Mr. Heep’s tenants and do so brilliantly as well. We get the VERY underrated Jeffrey Wright as a crossword puzzle afficionado, Freddy Rodriguez(who was in “Planet Terror“) as a man who only works out one side of his body(and it SHOWS), Jared Harris as the leader of a group of philosophical stoners, and none other than M. Night Shyamalan himself as an aspiring writer who plans on changing the world with his novel in the works. All of these random characters wind up playing huge roles in the film which only goes to show the real genius of a writer M. Night is.
The pacing for this film is well done and does slow the film down very much. This is not what you would consider an “exciting” film, so don’t expect the pacing to be fast paced. M. Night’s direction is great as usual and his use of the apartment complex setting is quite genius and overly simple, which is why I enjoy it. Pretty much the entire film takes place in the apartment complex and shows us how a bunch of “normal” people in a “normal” apartment complex can come together and with just a little bit of “faith”, can make amazing things happen.
I do not have any major gripes with this film aside from it’s use of CGI. CGI is used for the look of the “Scrunt” as well as a few other monsters towards the end, and although they did look pretty darn cool…well…CGI is CGI. A film like this can only be “so good” and I found this flick to be nearly perfect for the type of film it is.
Overall, this is another positive film from M. Night Shyamalan that much like “The Village”, is treated unfairly and is expected to be an all our horror film. This film is not a horror film, but is a fantasy film with horror elements in it. To treat this film as a horror film and expect scares is not open-,minded, and very ill-educated. Only those with an open-mind should watch this film. All others should stick to “entertaining” flicks.