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Hardly had the ink dried on my pronouncement that, for me, the event of the summer was the unseasonal release of the "extended" version of Major Dundee (resigned as I was to live in the past), when along came this very Dark Water. And immediately I had to sit down and have a little talk with myself. Even though the trailer looked promising, and even though I root for Jennifer Connelly the way I root for the Minnesota Vikings (i.e., without hope), I did not anticipate liking it terribly much: no more than such other Japanese transplants as The Ring and The Grudge, possibly a bit more than the same filmmaker's Central Station and The Motorcycle Diaries. But after sitting through it and liking almost everything about it, I was forced to ask myself what more I expected from a movie these days, what more I was holding out for. The habit of pessimism, dissatisfaction, and apathy is the sort of slump a filmgoer must truly worry about. Dark Water gave me everything I can reasonably ask of a ghost story, everything I got from The Innocents or the 1963 incarnation of The Haunting. Theme, development, resolution. Beauty, emotion, intelligence. Atmosphere, mood, tempo. And oh yes, gooseflesh. It is just barely possible that a ghost story could give me more than I can reasonably ask, but it has happened only once or twice in a lifetime, Portrait of Jennie, maybe Curse of the Cat People.

I count the summer a success, and I don't do my counting to the right of a dollar sign. I need only count as high as the number one. That's more than I get in some summers. I got my fair share of laughs, too, quite apart from the improving-taste theory. I did not get them from Wedding Crashers, The Longest Yard, or The 40 Year Old Virgin. I got them from the uncommonly clever Bewitched, undampened by its "disappointing" box-office, and from the off-the-radar Broken Flowers and Me and You and Everyone We Know. And I got something else as well, not a lot, but something, from the likes of Howl's Moving Castle, Batman Begins, Land of the Dead, War of the Worlds, Four Brothers, Red Eye. Gravy.

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