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Dark Water – 7

Director – Hideo Nakata

Cast – Hitomi Kuroki, Rio Kanno, Mirei Oguchi, Asami Mizukawa, Fumiyo Kohinata, Fu Tokui, Isao Yatsu, Shigemitsu Ogi

Release Year – 2002

Reviewed by John of the Dead

I was first exposed to the Dark Water scene when I viewed its American remake back in 2005, and while I do not remember if I really liked the film or not I knew that the original effort had garnered much praise from horror fans and has been deemed one of the absolute best Japanese horror films of all time. I cannot say that I agree about this being one of Japan’s best in regards to horror, but it really is a good film with a great story from Ringu director Hideo Nakata. Dark Water joins another 2002 effort, Ju-on: The Grudge, as two Asian horror pieces that helped in bringing Asian horror to the western part of the world, which inadvertently resulted in the American fad of remaking good Asian horror. Personally I did not enjoy this effort as much as I wanted to, but I blame that mostly on my personal preferences, and in the end I will say that Dark Water is a darn good horror effort worth a viewing for die hard Japanese horror fans.

While suffering the stresses of the custody battle for her 6 year old daughter, Yoshimi moves her and her daughter to an old but cost-efficient apartment. Things go well for Yoshimi at first, but soon the apartment begins to fall apart when a running water leak permeates her roof. The apartment is not only suffering physical damage though, and Yoshimi soon learns that the water results from a haunting past associated with the apartment.

Of course this being an Asian film there has to be some sort of vengeful ghost element right? Well, yeah, but this adaptation Koji Suzuki’s novel does not give us the typical angry ghost that some love and many love to loathe. I really enjoy storylines where someone moves into a new home and then suffers the effects of prior bad acts that occurred there, and obviously Dark Water falls into that category. There is a bit of development that takes place at first, exposing the viewer to Yoshimi’s legal struggle with her former husband who now all of a sudden wishes to have custody of the daughter he rarely saw or paid attention to, and combined with Yoshimi’s former mental issues this proves to be a volatile time for her mental state. Of course, things only worsen when her apartment begins exhibiting odd and ever-growing water stains, and her lowlife landlord doing nothing to fix the issue only further aggravates the single mother. Eventually the story moves on to the supernatural element, which involves the story of a young girl who used to live in the apartment, a young girl who leaves her belongings in the home and occasionally makes her visible presence known to Yoshimi and the viewer. Once the supernatural element kicks in we are provided with a few decent scares, but I never once found myself scared or freaked and that is one of the reasons why I did not enjoy this film as much as I expected to. In all fairness I did not see this film as one that purposely aimed to scare the hell out of you like Ringu and One Missed Call, but nonetheless I expected at least a few good jolts but nothing sufficed. Because of the type of story this is and the heavy drama provided, the story does move pretty slow and may turn off some viewers looking for a good time. Paring a slow story with a lack of scares is never a good thing, but in the end the story managed to be a good one overall, but obviously one that will take much patience.

Director Hideo Nakata did a fairly good job executing this piece, giving us his usually great atmosphere heavy in gloom and dread. The apartment location was great and played very well into the spooky atmosphere, and his execution of what little horror was provided managed to be worthwhile in the end. I mentioned earlier that there are very few scares, and while the “scare” scenes were not very scary at all I really do not blame Nakata for this but more the screenplay which called for scenes that were simply not very scary. Of course, he is not one to fail on the scare mark and managed to provide one good scare at the end (hallway scene) that I found to be the best highlight the film had to offer.

Overall, Dark Water is one of the better Asian horror movies out there thanks to great atmosphere and a slow-burning story that provides good elements of horror in a package not meant to scare you outrightly. While this is not a personal favorite of mine as I found it slow and a bit boring, this is nonetheless a great effort from one of Asian horror’s brightest minds.

Rating: 7/10

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