THE RIVER KING (Nick Willing). 99 minutes. Opens Friday (October 21). For venues and times, see Movies, page 102. Rating: NN Rating: NN
Pitched in the same eerie calm often seen in Hollywood remakes of Japanese ghost stories, The River King would be so much more satisfying if no one in it ever spoke. The snow and ice look gorgeous. Shot in and around Halifax, cinematographer Paul Sarossy 's glossy images give the story a beautiful chill that both the plot and the performances squander. Mood is the only pleasure in this film, which is not nothing in a thriller. But it's not enough.
The source is a novel by Alice Hoffman , whose Practical Magic was also turned into a film. Edward Burns plays a small-town cop investigating the death of a private school student. The town is dominated by the exclusive school, which wants to close the case as a suicide. But Burns smells murder, and spooky photographs taken by a teacher ( Jennier Ehle ) suggest that the victim might be trying to solve the crime from beyond the grave. All this might work if the director made more interesting choices, if the story built to a smart twist or if Burns didn't have the unfortunate habit of channelling Ben Affleck. This isn't supposed to be a horror movie.