''It was Dressed to Kill that did me in,'' says Jennifer Connelly, referring to Brian De Palma's 1980 fright flick. ''I was way too young to have seen it, and then I couldn't go near scary movies for years and years.'' Until one day in 2004, when she read the script for Dark Water, an American remake of a hit Japanese movie written and directed by Hideo Nakata (Ringu, Ring Two). ''I found it really frightening and, at the same time, really moving,'' the actress says. ''I thought it might be fun to make a scary film, and that [director] Walter [Salles would] be an interesting person to do it with.''
As in the 2002 original, the new version is the tale of a recently separated mother (Connelly) who moves into a spooky New York apartment with her 5-year-old daughter (newcomer Ariel Gade), only to discover that the building is haunted by...water. Lots and lots of dripping, spraying, gushing water. Meanwhile, her estranged husband (Mission: Impossible 2's Dougray Scott) is waging a nasty custody battle against her. (Tim Roth plays Connelly's lawyer, and John C. Reilly her weirdo real estate broker.)
''You don't know if there's something wrong in the apartment, if it's her husband sabotaging her in the custody battle, or if she's just haunted by her own childhood,'' Connelly explains. ''You're not sure what's going on, which is what I like about it.'' That psychological depth was what persuaded Brazil's Salles (The Motorcycle Diaries) to make Dark Water his Hollywood debut. ''It's a ghost story, not a horror film,'' he says. ''It's about the internal demons that Jennifer's character carries with her, and what we have to do to be at peace with our past.'' But if we get the pants scared off us while we're at it, well, then, all the better.