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Brownstone of Death

Jennifer Connelly confronts the terror of New York real estate.

Our closets may be too small for monsters, but for many of us, there is still nothing more terrifying than New York real estate. Realtors are our bogeymen; gentrification is our bump in the night; mortgages keep us awake, eyes staring up at the ceiling. Against our will, we are forced to imagine nightmare scenarios: eviction, robbery, fire, a co-op hearing, children (where would they go?), an uptick in the distilled evil that is Manhattan rent, the real reason for our townhouse’s below-market price tag.

So it's not surprising that we’ve projected our subconscious fears into the sub-genre of New York–housing horror: the devil-worshipping Dakota of Rosemary’s Baby; the haunted home of the bad Amityville Horror and its worse remake; the deceptive peace of Jimmy Stewart’s Village digs in Rear Window; even Sigourney Weaver’s swanky Central Park West pad that welcomed Zool’s netherworld in Ghostbusters. This summer, a New York two-bedroom will host the season’s most promising horror film, Dark Water, starring Brooklyn’s Jennifer Connelly.

“There are at least two kinds of scary movies,” says Connelly, sipping Earl Grey tea at a small table in Soho House. “There’s the idyllic kind: You’re in the woods, running, and no one can see you. No one can hear you scream.”

And then there’s our kind.

“The horror of true urban loneliness,” Connelly calls it. “When you feel like you should actually be quite safe, because you’re surrounded by thousands and millions of people. But actually everyone turns a blind eye—and something happens to you on the subway.”

Opening July 8, Dark Water is a quintessential urban horror story—a remake of a terrifying movie by Hideo Nakata (Ringu), which was originally set in Tokyo, the only other city that can rival New York’s scary property frenzy. Indie director Walter Salles (Central Station, The Motorcycle Diaries) is making his Hollywood crossover by recasting the tale—about a brittle divorcée and her young daughter who move into their first apartment—on spooky Roosevelt Island.

There, the specific horror of New York real estate is heightened by the fact that those thousands of people Connelly mentioned become her often-scary neighbors. They give her odd looks in the hallway, talk to themselves on the sidewalk, make suspicious noises next door. And the city, of course, has its own odd history, or—as Manhattan’s Edgar Allan Poe might say from his grave—its ghosts. New York has history like L.A. has sunshine.