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Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

FILM DETAILS
Certificate
15
Cast
Hitomi Kuroki
Rio Kanno
Asami Mizukawa
Mirei Oguchi
Koji Suzuki.
Directors
Hideo Nakata.
Screenwriters
Hideo Nakata.
Running Time
101 minutes

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Dark Water
Creepy haunted house suspense from the maker of the Japanese horror success Ring


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Plot
Aiming to make a new start, single mother Yoshimi and her young daughter Ikuko move into a new apartment in a run-down part of town. Their harmony is soon disrupted by strange goings on, especially a nasty water stain on the ceiling that seems to grow every day. Then a small child keeps appearing.


Review

While still working his icy chills in his homeland of Japan — he’s now installed in Hollywood remaking his own work — Hideo Nakata directed a series of effective, idiosyncratic ghostly tales that positioned the horror genre away from the glare of schlock. His notion of fear is a slow creep, a stain on the ceiling, the blur of a video image, the insidious tremor caused by a momentary image of a small Japanese child with lank hair and dead eyes. In this style, his most famous films, Ring and Ring 2, might as well have been squealing up Elm Street way compared to the subtle strains of this ghost story that uses reticence, a flat refusal to fully expose its evil schemes, to invoke a very redolent fear.

Thus you have one of the slowest, and often most infuriating, horror movies ever made. Dark Water, as its names suggests, works most of its dread through the expanding image of an iron-brown water stain, and the unending drip-dripping of its torment. The ethereal backstory here tells of a missing girl (a staple of Japanese horror) in ghost form haunting the scene of her downfall in search of a new mother, and Yoshimi, with her own child, fits the bill. In the meantime she’ll ‘make friends’ with little Ikuko.

Nakata, however, keeps the supernatural shards of his story at one remove, allowing them to glimmer sullenly in the background — repeated glimpses of this spooky kid — building a small soap opera in the foreground. We learn Yoshimi (played with dancing nerves by Hitomi Kuroki) has escaped from a brutal marriage, leaving her frayed and open to suggestion; one being that her paranoia over this strange vision of a girl is being manipulated by her ex-husband aiming to regain custody of their daughter. The film, at this stage, never fully commits to the outright alien, allowing Nakata to insinuate it could all in her head, the mucky glower of that stain representing the state of her mind.

Things do tip finally in the direction of genuine weirdness, if not toward an ending that will wholly explains itself, but the impression lasts, proving that oft-regaled saw in horror parts that less is so often more. Especially when it comes to the itchy terror of pre-pubescent Japanese children.


Verdict
Not nearly as clever as Ringu, Dark Water is an honest, old-fashioned ghost story with plenty to chill the marrow and make you vow never to take the lift again.


Reviewed by Ian Nathan

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for Dark Water
Empire Star Rating

like ring very creepy ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by bobbyperu at 09:52, 25 October 2007 | Report This Post


like ring very creepy ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by bobbyperu at 09:52, 25 October 2007 | Report This Post


Very Enjoyable

I liked this film much better than Ringu. I wasn't sure exactly how the end would come together and found the ending truly sad. It has a few slightly jumpy moments, but plays more on your compassion for the mother and her adorable little girl. You can't help but feel sympathy. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by lulu karma at 21:52, 30 July 2006 | Report This Post


RE: Shat my pants!

This was pants from start to finish. Slow, predictable and very unfullfilling. ... More

Posted by Newander at 08:19, 23 January 2006 | Report This Post


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