Dark Water is a reworking of a hit Japanese film by Hideo Nakata, creator of The Ring. The screenplay by Rafael Yglesias almost reminds one of the starting point of The Ring Two as Connelly's Dahlia is attempting to begin life anew with undaunted five-year-old daughter Ceci, well-played by Ariel Gade.
Things have been unsettling for Dahlia because of a custody fight with a philandering former husband (Dougray Scott of Mission Impossible: 2, Ever After). Salles effectively moves the setting to New York's Roosevelt Island where Dahlia rents a rather run-down and cramped apartment (9F) that isn't very costly.
She has to hound the real-estate agent (John C. Reilly) and the unusual, if responsive maintenance man (Pete Postlethwaite) because of a leaking pipe which has severely damaged her ceiling from Apartment 10F. There's something strange about the water dripping in her new home. It may have to do with the ghost of a missing young girl (Perla Haney-Jardine). Color dyes used in gels for soft drinks help blacken the imagery of what brings on migraines for Dahlia during incessant wet weather.
Similar to expressive Naomi Watts, especially in The Ring, Connelly proves more than capable of portraying a loving, devoted mother. She also internalizes Dahlia as the situations around her become quite mystifying and riddling her as the dark water pressurizes her into questioning her reality. A sense of determination and desperation is similar to what the Academy-Award winning actress displayed opposite Ben Kingsley's rigid, yet honorable Iranian family man in the aforementioned House of Sand and Fog.
The backup performers, notably Reilly and Postlethwaite and Tim Roth as Dahia's lawyer who works out of his vehicle, are mostly there to add to Dahlia's mounting discomfort. The apartment emerges as an entity unto its own with the production adding a bleached dampness to the lensing that is integrated into the emotional underpinnings growing within a woman trying to figure out the source of her new personal havoc.
Unfortunately, the last act has Salles falling prey to the necessary high point which undermines the chilling aura set up. It is intended to ingratiate mainstream horror fans, but seems to take an easier route which goes against an intriguing subtle drama that acutely brings some nerve-racking moments into one's imagination. The fearless high tension with some good red herrings becomes overwrought and what opens up one's mind from the fear of the unknown ultimately loses its way as an indelibly poignant ghost story.