Alongside The Ring, Dark Water is one of the most famous horror movies to come out of Japan, popular enough to spawn an American remake a few years later. Directed by the Hideo Nakata who was also responsible for the Ring & it’s sequel, there are similarities with the style of filming but that’s as far as they go.
Based on the short story by Koji Suzuki called Floating Water it tells the story of a mother trying to get back on her feet with her young daughter following a messy divorce.
Yoshimi moves to a dilapidated apartment block with her daughter, Ikuko while her divorce is being finalised. Her ex-husband is fighting her for custody of their child & it’s taking its toll on Yoshimi.
Their new apartment is nice enough but a leak in one of the roofs becomes more of a problem as the days pass by. After getting little interest from the building manager she takes it upon herself to visit the apartment above but finds it seemingly empty & locked.
Then things start to get a little strange…
Ikuko finds a red bag & wants to keep it but Yoshimi disposes of it only for it to appear later elsewhere. Another little girl who looks to be the same age as Ikuko is seen briefly & black hair comers out of the bathroom tap.
Digging for information Yoshimi discovers a mother & daughter lived above them once. The girl, Mitsuko, disappeared in mysterious circumstances & her mother is long gone. After a particularly unsettling incident within the abandoned apartment, Yoshimi insists upon leaving but is talked into staying by her lawyer, who thinks it will weaken her custody case.
Scared for herself, her daughter & beginning to show cracks to her ruthless ex-husband, Yoshimi tries to continue live as normal until the re-appearing red bag leads her to the roof & the water tank.
The rest of the film is a revelation, immensely enjoyable as the truth is revealed & what that means for the desperate mother & daughter. Dark Water is a haunting/ghost story that stands high above most of its competitors because its scares are very effective. Chilling yet with a tinge of sadness…the story told is not about evil but the love a child has for their mother.
A very small cast keeps you close to those involved. Yoshimi is incredible throughout & it’s hard not be sympathetic to her plight in the face of her ex-husband who, while ruthless, is only doing what he feels is right too.
The innocence of Ikuko adds a lot to the overall story because the events that occur are seemingly normal to her. Her mother’s reactions seem over the top through her eyes but her love is unfaltering & we see that in particular with a heart-breaking ending.
It’s arguable if we needed the additional part at the end that skips to many years later. It’s a nice enough resolution & adds one final chill.
One of the most frightening J-horror movies to date that also does an great job of building believable characters & making their stories interesting.
J-Horror: Dark Water