Wet weather never seemed so ominous as it does in Dark Water. Flooded with the standard scary scenarios, the film includes vacant-eyed children, chilling whispers and relentless rain.
In the movie, Jennifer Connelly plays a young mother engaged in a bitter custody battle for her daughter Ceci (Ariel Gade). Plagued by migraines, Dahlia (Connelly) relies on medication to relieve the on-rush of painful symptoms, but the divorcee soon faces much bigger headaches. Trying to establish a new home for herself and her child, she moves into a deteriorating housing project on Roosevelt Island in New York City.
The unit is a multi-story complex made up of numerous buildings and hundreds of apartments. Yet even with cheap rent and a short tram ride to the mainland, the rundown facility seems to have a severe shortage of visible tenants. Other than the supervisor (Pete Postlethwaite), viewers meet one fellow renter, and a couple of teenage hoodlums who toss lewd comments in the Dahlia's direction. Even the landlord (John C. Reilly) makes only a perfunctory appearance in the building after he is threatened by legal action.
When the marriage mediation process turns ugly between Dahlia and her ex-husband (Dougray Scott), he tries to prove she is mentally unstable to care for their daughter and he appears to have a growing case. Troubled by past traumas, her psychological state surfaces as one of the factors in their marital breakdown. Now facing the pressure of life on her own, Dahlia senses fleeting shadows and hears voices in the new apartment. Then Ceci begins to talk to an imaginary friend--one that interferes with the little girl's ability to interact with others and seems to have evil intentions.
While the script relies on perpetual ceiling leaks, overflowing toilets and possessed washing machines for much of the chill factor, the truly scary scenes seem to evaporate before they happen. Instead audiences are shown a flooded dwelling and a rain-soaked landscape over and over and over again. Language concerns, although limited, include a few brief strong profanities and the use of a sexual expletive. Violence issues center around dark, blood-like fluids, bodies submersed in water and turbulent flashbacks.
Having survived a harrowing childhood, Dahlia does her best to reverse the mistakes of her own upbringing and struggles to be a better parent to Ceci. But whether it's the result of mental anguish, illness-induced hallucinations or an actual apparition that haunts their house, her efforts look doomed from the start.
Unfortunately, even with the talents of the award-winning actress and a cast of colorful characters, a wandering storyline and the lack of a compelling conclusion also dooms Dark Water to be a watered-down thriller.