Dahlia Williams (Jennifer Connelly) is in the process of divorcing her husband Kyle (Dougray Scott]), and the split is not going well. Dahlia wants to make life difficult for her soon-to-be ex, and moves away from the New Jersey location of his new home to an urban island town that he will have trouble reaching with any ease. Naturally, this leads to squabbles because he still wishes to see his daughter and their shared custody should mean precisely that in his eyes; he is beginning to think Dahlia is suffering a paranoia about his motives. Nevertheless she takes an apartment for her and Ceci (Ariel Gade), but her current trauma is making life difficult for her. And then there's the resident ghost...
Yet another Hollywood remake of a horror film, and not only that but yet another American remake of a Japanese horror film, Dark Water was an interesting choice for director Walter Salles, better known for heartfelt drama. And so it was here that he aimed straight for the emotions, with fear of the supernatural taking a back seat to the more commonplace fears of broken down relationships, taking care of family or failing to, and keeping your head above (dark) water financially. Then there's the need to find somewhere stable to live, which no matter what landlord John C. Reilly says Dahlia has not found here.
This could easily be viewed as a horror movie for single divorced mothers, or perhaps a horror movie for everyone except single divorced mothers - why would they want to put themselves through the worries of seeing their nightmares made into a movie? Not nightmares such as the ghost of a creepy little girl hanging around your new home, but more tangible ones like your ex-husband proving to be a better provider and more concrete influence in your child's life than you are, or the place you have settled on to live in being afflicted with, say, damp patches on the ceiling that indicate a leak you cannot get the staff to take care of.
In fact, the spectre gets short shrift here as it could easily be a figment of Dahlia's imagination that she has passed on to her daughter, who after a fixation on a backpack containing a doll she finds on the roof winds up with its absent owner as an imaginary friend she could well do without. More so than in the original film, this is a shocker that takes place in the heroine's interior life as her anxieties are made flesh. So when the damp patch starts dripping alarmingly she cannot perusade the resident watchman and handyman (Pete Postlethwaite) to fix it and the plumber is nowhere to be seen.
Dahlia decides to take matters into her own hands and visits the apartment directly above hers' to find it flooded and apparently abandoned, after someone has broken in and left the taps running. Or have they? Dahlia can't help but grow suspicious about almost everyone, even singling out Kyle as a possible plotter against her, but is she right? Her lawyer (Tim Roth) attempts to keep her on an even keel, but the paranoia dominates, leading to a discovery that doesn't help in the manner you - or Dahlia - might hope. Ever since the late nineties you could rely on Connelly's films to supply misery of some degree or another, and Dark Water is no exception with its bleak conclusion (screenwriter Rafael Yglesias tries to sweeten it, but there's no getting away from the tragedy of what's happened). This makes for a more reflective, sombre and frankly less chilling horror than most of its ilk, not that it's bad, simply dejected. For what it is, it's very accomplished indeed. Music by Angelo Badalamenti.