Dark Water (2002)

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Overall Rating 63%
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Ranked #2,936
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Connections: Dark Water

In the final stages of a messy divorce, Yoshimi struggles to build a new life for herself and her daughter. Unfortunately, the challenges of single parenting and an ongoing custody battle are further complicated when they move into an apartment plagued by mysterious water leaks and haunted by the apparition of a little girl. --IMDb
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Review by Chad
Added: July 8, 2005
In this stylish drama film from Hideo Nakata (director of Ringu), we find out that young mother Yoshimi Matsubara (Hitomi Kuroki) is battling her ex-husband for custody of their daughter Ikuko (Rio Kanno). In Japan, the laws pretty much state that the mother will gain custody of their children if the child is under six years old... however, Yoshimi has had previous mental problems, is unemployed, and does not have a place to live. Needless to say, these factors weigh heavily against the courts decision to grant custody to her. So, Yoshimi sets out to both find a place to live and a new job to support her and Ikuko. Using her previous experience as a book editor, she lands a job with a small publishing company, and soon afterwards she manages to secure a run-down apartment. Things are looking up for the two, until a leaking water-spot appears on the roof of their apartment. Though they don't know it at first, this is somehow connected to a strange little girl that both Yoshimi and Ikuko have seen wandering around the premises, but the full story will shock both of these ladies as well as the audience.

You, dear reader, may have noticed that I said "stylish drama" up above instead of "stylish horror". That's because this is not the horror film as many have made it out to be and even more would expect. There are some supernatural happenings going on and there's more than a few scenes with horror elements, but overall, this movie fits much more into the drama category than the horror. The movie builds up slowly, focusing on the fight for custody of Ikuko and developing the characters of both her and her mother. The supernatural events are the main story here, but they really don't come in to play until near the end of the film and merely serve as a backdrop to the ongoing events until said time rolls around. Therefore, those of you who pick this movie up expecting another horror film in the style of Ringu, The Eye, or Ju-On will almost definitely walk away disappointed.

Now that I've established that this really isn't a horror film, I would like to point out that that fact does not make this a bad movie. There are a number of scenes that are very slow-going and I was quite tempted to push the fast-forward button, but each of these scenes build the characters and rationalize the end actions by these characters. You probably won't get that while you're watching the movie, but once the ending rolls around, it'll all make sense. Those of you who've seen a few Japanese horror films (and not just the mainstream three listed above) will perfectly understand what I'm saying here... those of you who are new to the Japanese style of film may be thrown off a bit by this.

I do find what I'm about to say kind of ironic, however, after going on about how this isn't a horror and how you shouldn't go in expecting lots of scares. The end sequence (in the elevator is all I'm going to say) is one of the creepiest scenes I have ever seen. Yes, with countless horror movies under my belt, I will go on record as saying that this scene ranks in my personal top five creepiest scenes of all time. Honestly, I can't quite put my finger on what it is about this scene that is so effective; the effects are average at best, the outcome is expected prior to its happening, and really, readers would think that I'm nuts if I were to type it out here. Those of you who have seen it will know what I mean, and those of you who end up seeing it will be in for a treat. This scene is a tough act to follow, but immediately following this we see an epilogue showing the aftermath of the events featured in the movie. This scene is both emotional and unsettling, and it was a perfect end to the film. Nakata definitely has a way with turning the most mundane things into something truly creepy, and he also has a way with using subtle scares instead of resorting to the "BOO!" tactics.

I'm not going to compare this to the upcoming American remake as I haven't seen it yet, and it really wouldn't be fair to judge it before I've even seen a trailer for it. I will say, however, that I do not expect the American remake to hold a candle to the original. This isn't a case of "the original is always better" (though that is usually true), but I don't think that the mainstream American audience is prepared for a film like Dark Water. I expect the drama elements to be radically toned down, the horror levels pumped up, and the subtlety removed in favor of quick scares. If that is the case, the whole tone of the movie will be ruined and we'll be left with yet another a mediocre horror film with a remake tag attached to it.

This isn't Ringu. Don't view this expecting the same basic storyline with new characters, don't expect a scare every other scene, and don't get this with the idea of kicking back to watch a horror film. If you can do those three things, you'll likely enjoy the hell out of this. I sure did. 9/10.
. #1: . - added September 13, 2005 at 8:38pm
This was just weird. Yet awesome in true Hideo Nakata style.
ScarsRstarS #2: ScarsRstarS - added January 10, 2006 at 7:48am
Hated it. I took my girlfriend to see it and feel asleep. That how much i enjoyed it
Chad #3: Chad - added November 14, 2006 at 9:17am
You took your girlfriend to see a movie that, as of the date of your posting, had been out for a few days shy of four years? I think you're getting this mixed up with the horrible remake.
billie #4: billie - added March 20, 2008 at 12:25am
i liked it but it's just that the remake with Jeniffer Connaly was a little darker but i must admit that the kid in this one was much cuter and the mom was way crazier than the mom in the remake
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