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Dark Water
  |     Sanjuro's review    |     Magicvoice's review    |     notes     |     awards     |     availability     |   

Oooh...creepy. An unnerving image from Dark Water.
AKA: Honogurai mizu no soko kara  
Year: 2002  
Director: Hideo Nakata  
  Producer: Taka Ichise  
  Cast: Hitomi Kiroki Mirei Oguchi, Rio Kanno, Asami Mizukawa
  The Skinny: Ring compatriots Koji Suzuki and Hideo Nakata are back with this creepy thrill-ride guaranteed to keep you on the edge of your seat. It also contains the spookiest "Have You Seen This Child?" poster ever created.
Review by Calvin McMillin:      The formulaic "woman-trapped-in-a-haunted house" plotline gets a fresh update in Hideo Nakata's stellar Dark Water. The plot is simple: young divorcee Yoshimi (Hitomi Kuroki) is battling her nasty ex for legal custody of their precocious young daughter, Ikuko (Rio Kanno). To prove she can create a stable home life for her daughter, Yoshimi moves into a new apartment with Ikuko in tow. Aside from the creepy décor, the only problem seems to be the persistent leak coming from a huge spot on the ceiling. But wouldn't you know it? The place holds dark secrets for the two new occupants.
     Unlike predictable horror dreck turned out by American movie studios, Dark Water succeeds in creating a palpable sense of dread that infuses the entire picture. Whereas American scary movies tend to use formulaic plotlines and clichéd scare tactics, Nakata's chiller feels fresh as it consistently draws the audience in closer. He makes us care for the protagonists, and as we're all pulled into the dark, dank abyss together, he makes us hope they'll survive.
     To its credit, Dark Water subverts a lot of conventional Western wisdom when it comes to horror films. Everyone knows that some spirits are just lost souls who need to be told to "go towards the light" or are in dire need of a proper burial. Simply put, if you satisfy the ghost's needs, everything will be a-okay. Not so in Dark Water, and I wouldn't have it any other way. (Calvin McMillin, 2002)
Alternate Review
     Yoshimi Matsubara (soap opera star Hitomi Kuroki) is involved in a bitter custody battle with her ex-husband over their six year-old daughter Ikuko (Rio Kanno). While a decision is being made on the matter, Yoshimi and Ikuko move into a run-down apartment building and attempt to build a new life. At first, things seem fine save for the annoying leaky ceiling in the bedroom, but as time passes, the leak gets worse and Ikuko starts talking to an imaginary friend named Mitsuko. It is soon revealed that Mitsuko (Mirei Oguchi) is a missing child who used to live in the apartment upstairs, and she has apparently returned to take Ikuko away from Yoshimi.
     Mother Yoshimi has some childhood abandonment issues of her own stemming from her own parents' split. Consequently, she wants nothing more than to be a good mother to Ikuko, and to keep them together. When the story of Mitsuko's own maternal abandonment comes to light, Yoshimi realizes to her horror that it's not Ikuko's company which Mitsuko desires but her own. Ikuko is simply in the way. Now she must choose between being mother to either Ikuko or Mitsuko. Surprisingly, her decision fulfills the needs of both children.
      Dark Water shares many characteristics of Hideo Nakata's other hit film Ring, but Dark Water has a better screenplay. Mitsuko is given plenty of backstory to flesh her out; she is a tragic and potentially dangerous spirit who serves as a metaphor for Yoshimi's own inner child. It took Nakata two films to accomplish the same kind of depth with Ring's Sadako. Also, where Ring ended on an anticlimactic note with the curse continuing, Dark Water has a more satisfying albeit melancholy conclusion. We are able to visit Ikuko ten years after the events and receive familial closure through her eyes. Dark Water is a very cathartic film and will probably have more of an emotional impact on viewers who come from divorced families themselves.
     Technically, nobody knows how to build quiet tension the way Hideo Nakata does. Through his skill as a director and the convincing performance of lead Hitomi Kuroki, something as innocuous as a child's book bag becomes ominous and terrifying. We are never allowed to see Mitsuko's face but instead are allowed only glimpses and quick shots. Sound effects and music play a big part in the chilling mood of the film; one scene where Mitsuko pounds on the inside of a water tank is as effective a use of sound and music as anything ever seen.
     Unfortunately, as with Ring, the rights to Dark Water have been purchased and will be produced as a remake in America. It is almost certain that most of the film's subtleties will be lost in translation. No doubt it will become something more akin to Aliens where the story becomes more about the lioness protecting her cub than the psychology of the haunting. Do yourself a favor and see the Region 3 DVD instead. Dark Water is an engaging and emotional thriller with a low body count and high intellect. (Magicvoice 2002)
Notes: Based on a novel by Kôji Suzuki (The novelist of The Ring).
Purchased for US remake in 2004. Jennifer Connelly is attached to star.

2002 Brussels International Festival of Fantasy Film
Silver Raven Award (Hideo Nakata)

Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 3 NTSC
Universe Laser
Japanese Language Track
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles

image courtesy of Copyright 2002-2017 Ross Chen