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.
~~ Jules Brenner