(Honogurai Mizu no Soko Kara)
I must admit that for a good part of the running time of Dark Water, I failed to engage with the film. The plot seems ordinary woman moves into apartment, apartment appears to be haunted by the ghost of a girl. Nakata seems to be too obviously attempting to recreate another Ring yet another sinister girl with hair covering her eyes (something that has become a cliché image in Japanese horror ever since Ring) wanting her death avenged; the same type of twist jump at the end; while it doesnt take much to see that here Nakata has only substituted Rings haunted videotapes for a flood of water.
I must also confess that as a director Hideo Nakata has left me divided Ring seemed crude at times, although by the time of Ring 2, he had polished his skill and created some genuinely unearthly shocks, but then appeared to have lost all of these by the time of The Ring Two and L: Change the World. Here Nakata creates some spooky images with the ever-present water creeping up, the red bag constantly reappearing, the black mark inching across the ceiling. There is the ever-so-spooky moment where a hand reaches up to take Hitomi Kurokis in the elevator and how, after her daughter runs on ahead, she realizes that she has been holding someone elses hand. During this time though, there is never any scene that genuinely puts one on edge or propels them out of their seat. Certainly, what the early scenes do most effectively is to create bleak sympathy for single mother Hitomi Kuroki and her determination to make it on her own and raise her daughter, fighting legal battles, trying to get a job and live in a very rundown apartment. Hitomi Kuroki gives an intelligent and effectively fearful and fraught performance in the role.
Almost when I was ready to consign Dark Water to being no more than an ordinary horror film, Hideo Nakata comes up with a completely left field ending that leaves one startled. The scenes with the mother venturing up onto the roof to look into the water tower while back in the apartment the ghost child appears from the bath to attack the daughter all have a fine atmospheric tension. However, it is the genuine surprise that comes when the mother heads down the elevator with the daughters body that entirely jolts the audience to say more would be to ruin the surprise. Needless to say, it holds a genuine jolt akin to the appearance of Sadaka out of the tv set at the climax of Ring. There is also a beautifully haunting epilogue set fifteen years later as the now teenage daughter returns to the house. It is these scenes that make the film.
Dark Water should not be confused with Mariano Baianos Russian-shot, Catholic horror film Dark Waters (1993), which is entirely unrelated to this excepting in similarity of title.