Before The Happening, there was...
Lady In The Water.
Here's a movie you'll either appreciate or dismiss completely. Based on a bedtime story M. Night Shyamalan told his child, Lady In The Water sets out to not so much be a typical horror/fantasy flick but instead to capture the made-up-as-it-goes-along feel of bedtime stories.
An odd, kinda random project, for sure, but a daring one.
One year prior, Terry Gilliam's Tideland had also tried something different with a similar genre by telling its story as seen through the boundary-free mind of a child and asking the audience to try and remember that while watching the film. Whether you like Lady In The Water or not, I don't find it necessary to be overly harsh with it since it's really more of an experiment and, for the most part, I think it works. Paul Giamatti is the stuttering caretaker who runs a pool-side apartment building and finds a young woman who seemingly just came out of the water in the pool randomly. He learns that she might in fact be a mermaid-like creature of legend called a Narf and that there are weird wolf-style monsters hiding in the nearby lawn making it impossible for her to go home. Through an old Korean woman who resides in one of the apartments, the caretaker learns more about the Narf as a little known bedtime story she knew told of this whole mythology and he tries to find a way to help the water nymph get home.
This leads to mostly nonsense involving Giamatti and the quirky inhabitants of the apartment building with the occasional jump scare courtesy of those nasty "Scrunts" who pop out of the grass at unexpected moments. Your enjoyment of this whole thing will depend on your willingness to buy the intentionally detailed randomness of it all. If you allow yourself to get into this oddball mystery then the film is a pretty fun watch. The rest of the cast includes the likes of Jared Harris, Jeffrey Wright, Bob Balaban, a pre-Planet Terror Freddy Rodriguez and M. Night Shyamalan himself, their characters are out-there to say the least and they help make Lady In The Water entertaining from start to finish. James Newton Howard's score is, once again, spot-on and adds a welcome fairy-tale feel to the proceedings. Sadly, near the end, Shyamalan's film gets a little over-sentimental and, shall we say, a little too spiritual? Plus the editing is at times jarring, probably because the director had to cut down the violence in the film to keep it at a low rating. This means no blood in what is essentially a fairy-tale for adults with mini horror movie moments here and there. I like the movie but even I'll admit that it gets a bit too silly in places. Oh and Bryce Dallas Howard's hair changes colour in the third act...
Not sure why that happens :S
You'll either like this movie or hate it. Yes it's mostly nonsense but bedtime stories often are so if that concept doesn't sound like something you'd want to sit through, you might want to give Lady In The Water a miss. Otherwise, it's a fun, original, unique, sweet little movie with a lot of heart, great performances and an engaging sense of mystery throughout.