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Dark Water' gets US remake - Frothing US right prompts a competition - Film history book for summer

Walter Salles seems to have taken an abrupt career turn with his new movie, a commendable remake of horror pic Dark Water. It tells the tale of a working class mother, Jennifer Connelly, who is undergoing a fierce custody battle for her five year old daughter, and decides to live on a godforsaken rain sodden estate, in a dilapidated, cramped new apartment. As she settles in she becomes anxious about the noises upstairs and the damp patch spreading on her ceiling. Neither can she understand her daughter's attachment to a kiddie rucksack and her new found invisible friend. Is she going mad? And will her husband exploit her fears and whisk the child away from her?

This is a remake of a Japanese film, originally made by Nakata and Suzuki, the duo who also brought us the original The Ring. The American version differs from the original in many interesting aspects: the mother is less passive. Attempts have been made to 'psychologise' the movie and it underlines, too heavily in my view, the characters' motivations. The fact that bit part players have their own stories and distinct character traits takes away from the more claustrophobic - and hence more suspense-laden - approach of the original.

Radical film theorists (namely Robin Wood) have previously drawn upon a Marxist/Freudian analysis to understand the deeper significance of the traditional horror movie, seeing in the genre how its monsters represented a 'return of the repressed', 'forbidden desire disowned and projected outwards by the protagonist'. Horror films represent our 'collective nightmares', he argued, offering an insight into our subconscious feelings. The more conservative slasher films of late, in contrast, demonise teenage sexuality, punishing transgression. In Dark Water it is the neurosis of the mother, once abandoned and alone as a child, who now fears a repeat experience for her daughter. Conflicting desires and panic come together in this fine remake culminating in a heart-stopping finish that remains true to the poignancy the original strove for too.

The right wing is getting riled about the slew of liberal-leaning films coming out of Hollywood. Republicans claim that the Hollywood environment is hostile to their concerns (have they seen Black Hawk Down?) and they need to counter with a pro-American agenda. The names of the new production companies give the game away - American Pride Films Group and RightSide Video. Then there are the film festivals - The American Film Renaissance and Liberty Film Festival. The films that they have in their line of fire are Carrie, Footloose, American Beauty, Reds, Motorcycle Diaries and Pretty Woman (!).

Writer-producer Larry Gelbart (Tootsie and TV sitcom M*A*S*H) said of the accusations of liberal bias, 'Nobody ever sat down and said, "Let's make a bunch of lefty movies." List the artistic people on the left and those on the right and compare their work. Those on the left are more creative.'

The USO, an organisation dedicated to arranging celebrity-laden shows for the US military abroad (remember that scene in Apocalypse Now?) is also having a crisis of its own. Seems like fewer and fewer celebs are prepared to endorse their boys abroad.

Competition time: what did the right object to in the following films: a) Carrie, b) Dirty Dancing, c) Pretty Woman? £10 in cinema vouchers to the best (short) answer to

If you're looking for a film summer book, you might want to check out The Story of Film by Mark Cousins. Readable and passionate, it details its story of style and technical innovation but always with an eye upon the maverick directors who ideologically challenged the mainstream. Any film critic who says that the global film world is now in better health than at any time in its history - because of the films of Kiarostami, Luhrmann, Von Trier, David Lynch, to name just a few - deserves serious consideration.