I believe Hideo Nakata to be the best director working in horror today, not only because he can maintain steady tension throughout a film (he can), and deliver major jump scenes that don’t feel cheap (he does), but because he also makes films that deal with real people. Even though they may be caught up in supernatural happenings, Nakata’s characters remain three dimensional, with real-world problems of their own (much like Stephen King’s written characters. In fact, I’d love to see him try his hand at adapting a King novel (“Bag of Bones” please, Mr. Nakata?), because most directors tend to ignore King’s characters and go straight for the BOO!, but I digress).
“Dark Water” is the story of a young woman, Yoshimi, and her five year-old daughter Ikuko, who move into a new apartment on the 6th floor. The problem: an ever-present, growing water stain on Ikuko’s bedroom ceiling and a child’s footsteps running back and forth in the apartment above, despite the fact that no one answers that apartment’s door. Not only that, but Yoshimi’s estranged husband is determined to use anything he can against her in order to take Ikuko away.
Doesn’t sound very scary, but it is. There were moments in this film that I wanted to press the Stop button and catch my breath; that’s how thick the tension gets in parts. Nakata knows how to play his audience too; any place Hollywood would stick a jump scene (and probably will in the upcoming remake), Nakata lets us linger just a bit longer, increasing that delicious suspense.
The film (and its nearly unbearable third act) works because it takes its time introducing us to these characters. Ikuko has fears of her own; just because she’s only five doesn’t mean she’s any less real. During one scene in which she’s the focal point, I had to struggle to keep the tears from flowing. Hey – make fun of me if you want, but nobody likes a soggy Taco.
And now, because I have the power to do so, I’d like to throw in a bit of a rant. I liked “The Ring” because the original had less than stellar effects. I enjoyed “The Grudge” because I wanted to see how the original director would tie all of his previous “Ju-On” films together. But there is NO need to remake this film. The effects are seamless, the acting is exquisite, the cinematography is alternately (and appropriately) gorgeous and dreary, the script is organic and the dialogue feels natural. This film is a jewel and, in my opinion, about as perfect a horror movie as you can ask for. “Dark Water” is a beautiful tone poem, full of life (and death), and joy (and sorrow).
And tension. Thick, thick tension. See it, if possible, before the Hollywood remake.
Pros: Re-read the last paragraph. This film shines in every aspect.
Cons: I honestly can’t think of any.
Review Rating: 5 out of 5 games of Hide and Seek turn into something EVIL!! EVIL, I tell you!!
“Dark Water” (2002)
Also known as: “Honogurai mizu no soko kara”
101 Minutes; Japan
Rated PG-13 for terror and disturbing situations.
Hitomi Kuroki (Yoshimi Matsubara)
Rio Kanno (Ikuko Matsubara)
Mirei Oguchi (Mitsuko Kawai)
Fumiyo Kohinata (Kunio Hamada)
Yu Tokui (Ohta)
Isao Yatsu (Kamiya)
Written by: Hideo Nakata (from the short story by Kôji Suzuki)
Directed by: Hideo Nakata
Viewing Format: Import VCD
(Originally published on HorrorWatch)