Dark Water (2002)
Director: Hideo Nakata
Recently divorced Matsubabra (Kuroki) moves into a creepy high-rise building with her 6-year old cutie pie of a daughter (Kanno). Once there, not only does she have to continue dealing with an ongoing stressful custody battle with her chain-smoking bastard of an ex-husband, but she also has to cope with the disturbing poltergeists caused by the mysterious spirit of a little girl who lives in her new home. Sadako...is that you? Did you step into the wrong movie?
The director (Hideo Nakata) and the writer (Koji Suzuki) of "Ringu" (the film later remade as "The Ring") reunite again and offer us “Dark Water”. Does it live up to "Ringu"? In my puddle of blood...it sure does. "Dark Water" has all of its “mature” bases covered and should please the more patient horror fan looking for something more classy and old-fashioned.
The pace of this film was purposely and pleasurably slow with a strong emphasis on build up and character. Although not as intense as "Ringu", it definitely cast a web around my grey matter via its spooky aura and kept me glued to the screen like a fly waiting to be devoured alive. This flick can also almost be perceived as a drama with supernatural undertones that eventually become overtones for the finale. I found the dramatic elements in regards to the mother/daughter relationship and the ongoing custody battle to be quite gripping. The poignant theme of abandonment and of history repeating itself also reinforced the profound flavor of the narrative and was one the main hooks that kept me on the line.
Now, that’s not to say that there are no scares here. "Dark Water" served up some weighty chills via its various uses of water as a threatening element and managed to put out and sustain an unsettling feel from frame one till the end. I never thought a water stain or a water puddle could be frightening in any shape or form, but this surreal pill thankfully proved me wrong by slipping the willies under my skin via its H20 devices. The fear tactics themselves were thankfully of the “simplicity hits harder” school of horror; think ghostly apparitions, mysterious footsteps or enigmatic shadows washing over walls. Aaaahhhh, what a breath of fresh morbid air!
Which leads me to the last block of the picture that particularly crushed my skull into ashes with its horrific yet poetic displays of fear. After all the build up, I was happy to say that the payoff was well worth the constant mind-toying and the wait. Taking into account the sub-genre in which it plays, the twists that arose had quite an unconventional spin to them and the fact that they also succeeded in keeping the emotional resonance that the film emanated throughout, made them all that more powerful. Horror that makes you feel. I’m SOLD!
The downsides of this picture are slim, but still there. Some might find it too low-key for their liking, but I that didn’t bother me one iota. I guess my sole peeve with this living dead girl were its similarities with "Ringu" in terms of its main horror angle; the ghost of the little Sadako-like girl and the "Ringu"-like subplot that came with her. That played against the film where I was able to guess its secrets and its chain of events fairly early on. But on the flipside, the flick eventually used familiarity in its favor and sucker-punched me when my back was turned with its stellar conclusion. Thank you!
Wrap all of that substance in a visual style that can only be described as restraint and hypnotizing (I kept thinking of Argento’s "Inferno" while watching this film), a brilliant use of the locations at hand (the building, the elevator, the water tower…wow) and arresting images to boot (the elevator waterfall...fuck me man) and you get a film that hits the donkey in the face with every throw. Heartfelt and dramatic? Check. Intriguing ghost story? Check. Genuinely touching? Check. Eerie as hell? Check. If it weren’t for its strong shades of "Ringu", I would call this film: perfect! Get your rubber ducky, the bath bubbles and the street walkers and hop in the tub with this one!
None and I didn’t need any here.
Although the film was subtitled, I could still safely say that Hitomi Kuroki (Matsubabra) gave an intense, focused and endearing performance. As for Rio Kanno (Ikuko), she had to be one of the cutest little girls ever and her scenes felt mucho honest.
T & A
None and I didn’t need any here.
Hideo Nakata has a knack for using stillness effectively and sure knows how to build up tension/suspense. Tagged with his stylish, morbidly gorgeous shots and the brilliant cinematography backing it all up, what we got here kiddies is one GORGEOUS looking horror lady. She’s the marrying kind.
Kenji Kawai and Shikao Suga give us a subtle and goose bump-inducing score. GOOD JOB!
"Dark Water" filled the void in my horror loving heart in terms of my craving for a sophisticated, artsy (I said it) and more adult type of offering. The Japanese are really getting up there in terms of delivering the best horror films on the globe nowadays. Yes, the movie can almost be perceived as Ringu's more subdued cousin, but it still managed to stand on its own as a solid piece of horror art. I loved it as much as "Ringu", but for different reasons. I expect the sausage factory known as Holly-Remake to snag the rights to this one as well. Hey, if we’re lucky Justin Timberlake will do the soundtrack ("Cry me a River" would surely make it in there). But until that goes down, do yourself a favor: shut the lights, axe the phone, decapitate the better half and see "Dark Water" in the pitch black and silence of your living room. It’s the finest ghost story I’ve seen in a while. Hope you dig it too.
This film’s Japanese title is: Honogurai mizu no soko kara.
Koji Suzuki who wrote the novel on which this film is based also wrote "Ringu" and "Ringu 2".