Dahlia Williams (Jennifer Connelly) and her five-year-old daughter are ready to begin a new life together. But their new apartment — dilapidated and worn — suddenly seems to take on a life of its own. Mysterious noises, persistent leaks of dark water, and other strange happenings in the deserted apartment above send Dahlia on a haunting and mystifying pursuit — one that unleashes a torrent of living nightmares.

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Another disappointing American remake of a foreign-language hit.

Like The Ring (2002), The Ring 2 (2004) and The Grudge (2004), Dark Water is another American remake of a recent, hugely successful contemporary Japanese horror movie. In stark contrast to the blonde Naomi Watts of the Ring remakes, the decidedly dark-haired Jennifer Connelly (A Beautiful Mind) plays the tormented mum in the midst of this latest J-horror derived ghost story.

Connelly's Dahlia is in the middle of a messy divorce and custody battle over her young daughter Ceci (Envy's Ariel Gade). They move into an apartment on Roosevelt Island, just off Manhattan in New York, and find they're haunted by not only a recurring water leak – and a mighty one at that – but the little girl who lives upstairs (Kill Bill Vol. 2's Perla Haney-Jardine). As with the original, the emphasis is placed upon Dahlia's mental state and whether or not she is fit as a single parent.

Dark Water
has been called a 'cover version' of the original Japanese film and with good reason. This Western remake remains very faithful to the Eastern original, with the Tokyo-based story pretty much just plonked squarely into an American setting. There's not a lot of reinterpreting going on, nor any of the cultural attachments or symbolism on which the Japanese Dark Water traded. Being an island culture, traditionally water holds many fears for the Japanese which are exploited to the hilt in J-horror. And logically, so much more could have been made of the threat water holds to the New York context, standing in as a symbol for the fatal attacks that have redefined the city (for example), or that New York, too, is a series of islands, where daily life is regulated by the elements. Instead water is reduced to more of an aesthetic backdrop, making it more superficial than scary.

Director Brazilian director Walter Salles (The Motorcycle Diaries) brings his usual accomplished flair to this well-made movie, with the performances from the equally excellent cast – including John C. Reilly (Magnolia) and Tim Roth (Pulp Fiction) – also spot on. That said, however, it is his most unremarkable film to date which is disappointing, with not a lot going on beyond it's fairly simplistic story and lovely production values.

As we've seen since with films like Central Station (1998) and Behind The Sun (2003), as a filmmaker Salles is capable of far more. He is one of the best working today. But like most of these American remakes Dark Water doesn't really add up to much nor does it supply the requisite scares needed to fulfill its obligation as a solid horror film. While many did find the J-original terrifying (I didn't!), if you'll pardon the pun, this film kind of waters down even more the maternal and mystical significance of the storyline, especially with the ghost-child.

Yet again, another disappointing American remake of a foreign-language hit. Maybe they'll have go back to coming up with their own horror movie ideas. It worked well up to 1990, why not now?