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Ghosts of the Northeast

. "Dark Water"

Director Walter Sales, who knows a thing or two about evoking emotion from richly dimensional characters ("Central Station"), takes on a new genre and turns in a remake of Hideo Nakata's 2002 Japanese film "Honogurai mizu no soko kara" (which, itself, was based on a novel by Koji Suzuki) as a finely atmospheric example of psychic horror. More reminiscent of "The Others" (Nicole Kidman) than, even, Nakata's The Ring, he departs from the usual setting for such intrigues of the mind by a haunted apartment complex on Roosevelt Island in the East River off Manahattan. The grey grimness of it serves just fine for the creepy shenanigans of undeparted spirits.

Going through a bitter divorce and custody battle with future ex Kyle (Dougray Scott), the as-yet unemployed Dahlia (Jennifer Connelly) is forced by economic circumstances to check out the $900 apartments, willing to overlook the building's downscale scumminess. Ceci (Ariel Gade) makes no bones about it, however, when her instincts guide her impressions before they even enter the building and she all but refuses to consider the place.

Mr. Murray (John C. Reilly), the apartment manager incarnate, reflecting long experience "selling" his run down building, uses every real estate euphemism possible to help mom and daughter imagine the place as desirable. The unrelieved sight of a grey beehive of apartments through the windows turns into a nice view of the city... at night. His job of reinterpreting the deplorable into the desirable is first rate. Dahlia is interested and checks it all out. Ceci continues to be resistive.

Until she sees a stain on the bedroom ceiling and goes exploring on her own. Which takes her to the roof where she discovers a water tank (which we'll accept as credible). She finds and secures a red backpack just as mother comes tearing onto the roof and rescues her. Suddenly, the girl is all for the apartment, and wouldn't consider any other.

While this is already suspicious, adults can only deal with Ceci's new invisible friend in the usual, tied-to-reality way, and the bulk of the story is in the slow discovery of the undeparted spirit that causing increasing havoc in the apartment and in Dahlia's and Ceci's life.

Connelly's combination of delicate beauty and dark mystery, conjured up by jet black hair, piercing eyes that look at you from copious brows, is as good as they come for this kind of material, and she's never looked better than she does here, in the moody lighting of Brazilian cinematographer Affonso Beato ("Dot the I," "All About My Mother").

Supporting cast shows exquisite selection with Pete Postlethwaite (Kobayashi in "The Usual Suspects") as desk and handy man Veeck simply outstanding, Tim Roth as seamy lawyer Jeff Platzer in as good a supporting role as he's got under his belt, a marvelously precocious Ariel Gade and, of course, Reilly who is more molded into his role than ever.

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                                      ~~  Jules Brenner  

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Ariel Gade and Jennifer Connelly
Apartment tenants in a state of discovery

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