Written By: JR
Edited By: Grave Reviews Staff
Director: Hideo Nakata
Producer: Takashige Ichise, Kyle Jones, John Ledford, and Mark Williams
Screenwriter: Koji Suzuki, Ken’ichi Suzuki, Yoshihiro Nakamura et. al.
Date of release: November 9, 2002
Hitomi Kuroki as Yoshimi Matsubara
Rio Kanno as Ikuko Matsubara (6 yrs. old)
Mirei Oguchi as Mitsuko Kawai
Asami Mizukawa as Ikuko Matsubara (16 yrs. old)
Fumiyo Kohinata as Kunio Hamada
Rating = 3/5 Graves
***May contain some spoilers***
Yoshimi Matsubara struggles to keep custody of her young daughter, Ikuko Matsubara, after filing a divorce. She is battered with defamation by her husband, Kunio Hamada, claiming that she has psychological issues to undermine her chances of winning the dispute. As Yoshimi and her daughter move out to a derelict apartment to start anew, they are bothered by leaks from the ceiling. By then, unsettling visions of a little girl start to occur, drawing them to uncover what’s behind the doors of the room above their apartment unit.
The Gore Factor
Water equates blood in this film as rain permeates the district where a single mother and her daughter struggle to survive the detriments of divorce. There is almost no actual violence at all except for flashbacks of a little girl drowning inside a water tank with no responsible guardian to save her from the tragedy. To such a degree, it is impressive and eerie that a friendly element such as water is used to concoct disturbing images.
The Grave Review
Alongside Ringu, Dark Water (2002) is proof to director, Hideo Nakata’s ingenuity to seek horror from the prosaic. Although it’s easy to compare it to Ringu due to recurring motifs, the film secludes itself through spurring an ominous mood behind a quiet narrative. It conveys a parable of child abandonment as a consequence of an unsound marriage and conceals a reservoir of despair beneath tides of terror.
The setting itself, a jaded apartment building run by slumlords, serves as a ghoulish character. It is as forbidding and hostile as Edgar Allan Poe’s House of Usher or Shirley Jackson’s Hill House. The creaking architectural junk conspires to portray Yoshimi and Fumiyo’s declining relationship. More so, it juxtaposes gentrification with the little girl’s tragedy, pointing neglect as the culprit. There is also an inconvenient thought at the back of the mind that Yoshimi and Ikuko would rather stay in a cursed building plagued by malevolent forces rather than live with a contemptible man. Apart from that, stills in offices and classrooms exude a gloomy atmosphere with drab colors, all the more muted while the district is drenched by the irreverence of rain.
Similar to a Stanley Kubrick style of framing, the camerawork utilizes blurred images and CCTV footage through an old cathode ray tube to instill fear through teasing. Hitomi Kuroki’s acting is noteworthy in exacting the tics and dramatic notes of someone grappling to debunk the shadows of her mental illness while being hounded by the supernatural. Ikuko’s innocence is also a huge factor in tweaking truths from reimaginations, exceptionally captured by the young actress, Rio Kanno, especially during the climax. The only downside of the film, visually, is the silly CGI used to illustrate Mitsuko’s mossed body.
The effects used to charge water in motion are lifelike whether it is dripping, leaking, bubbling, or flooding. Water is deemed as a cruel entity and an overwhelming misfortune in the film which mirrors the plight of Yoshimi, drowning in the pressure of being a responsible single mother after all the stress of processing her divorce. Everything in the film aligns with the sweet silent pathos it tries to deliver, except for an overdone denouement wherein the dialogue is written with a heavy hand. The last scene shows the viewers a grown-up Ikuko sentimentally talking to the ghost of her mom in the same spot where she lost her. It is quite too much and the film loses a little bit of the subtlety that it has been pursuing to flaunt all the while.
Nevertheless, the film spars, without putting on a fight, to exhaust the audience’s tolerance for the macabre. Nakata has, indeed, verified his repertoire of the craft, having created an overcast horror film that dwells in plausibility to inspire menace.
For the foregoing reasons, Grave Reviews gives Dark Water (2002) three graves out of five graves.
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