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Yoshimi Matsubara (Hitomi Kuroki) is in the middle of a nasty divorce
from her husband, Kunio Hamada (Fumiyo Kohinata). The biggest issue of
contention is their daughter, Ikuko (Rio Kanno). Kunio accuses Yoshimi
of being unstable, and he seems to have a point. Still, Yoshimi is
awarded at least temporary custody of Ikuko. We see her finding an
apartment for her and Ikuko to live in. They pick a less-than-ideal
apartment, because it is affordable. Soon after, strange occurrences
begin. Yoshimi's bedroom ceiling is developing a water stain.
Mysterious puddles of water appear in different locations. An unusual
item keeps appearing, despite attempts to discard it. Yoshimi
periodically sees a strange girl, but only in glimpses. Ikuko begins
acting oddly. On top of all this, Yoshimi is trying to go back to work,
and she's having trouble balancing that with taking care of Ikuko.
Things are spiraling out of control. Are the problems due to Yoshimi's
divorce, or is there also something more sinister or supernatural going
Despite Dark Water's relatively overt similarities to a number of other filmic works, this is one of director Hideo Nakata's most successful films--at least as good as his famed Ringu (1998), if not better. I came awfully close to giving Dark Water a 10 out of 10, and can easily see myself raising my score on subsequent viewings. Many facets of the film do not open up until you see them again. For example, when fact checking something about the film shortly before writing this review, I re-watched the beginning; the opening credits are extremely eerie, but the full impact doesn't hit you until after you've seen the film once and more fully realize what you're looking at while watching the first shot.
The similarities include quite a few thematic resemblances to Ringu, which shouldn't be surprising considering that not only is Nakata the director for both films, they are both based on novels by the man who is often called "The Japanese Stephen King", at least in the Japanese press--Koji Suzuki.
Like Ringu, Dark Water's menace comes in the form of a young, long haired Japanese girl who makes frequent, mysterious appearances. Girls may be the focus because of irony--they're supposed to be cute (as is Kanno, who turns in a great performance along with her more adult fellow cast) and innocent. A girl menace should therefore be that much more unnerving.
The menace is often accompanied by water. Water was important symbolism in Ringu, too. I would venture a guess that Nakata and/or Suzuki have a fear of water. It might be more impersonal, too. Water is a powerful force, both easily adapting to its surroundings and easily molding them. It permeates much of the world. As such, it's a good visual symbol for kami, which is the Shinto "essence" or "beingness" that permeates everything, and (among many other things) can be godlike, or the soul of a dead human, or tsumi, a "pollution" form of kami which could perhaps be also at least symbolically cleansed by water.
Another important symbolic commonality shared by both Ringu and Dark Water is that of claustrophobic spaces. These occur in Ringu in forms like the well, closets and crawl spaces. Dark Water has the elevator and a structure for which you'll only realize the importance near the end of the film. Water combined with the elevator also enables Nakata to give a nice nod to Stanley Kubrick's The Shining (1980) in one scene.
A further similarity to Ringu is that Dark Water is just as concerned with familial problems as it is concerned with horror. In fact, the horror may only be symbolic or may only be a metaphor for familial problems (in the Ringu/Ring films, this is made even more clear in Nakata's latest, American Ring film--The Ring Two, 2005). Both feature a young mother struggling to maintain a normal existence with her only child. In Dark Water, it is particularly easy to see the horror elements as mere metaphors for Yoshimi's psychological decline and the effects it has on her daughter, which echo her own problematic childhood--we learn that her parents were also divorced when she was young, and the opening dramatic scene of the film shows Yoshimi as a child, waiting at school for someone to pick her up. We also hear her comment that her mother was "bad".
This is not to say that Dark Water has no focus on horror. Nakata's well known deliberate pacing is perfect here. The spooky events are subtle but unnerving, and Nakata achieves some amazing build-ups, such as the scene in the elevator near the end of the film, with a particularly frightening reveal. This reveal works as well as it does because Nakata takes so long to get there. He builds tension through stretching out pregnant pauses until the viewer is ready to burst. There are many such scenes throughout the film.
Dark Water also succeeds because the story is kept relatively simple and straightforward. Unlike typical American films, much of the story is "told" through implication. As a viewer, you are frequently left to figure out decisions and events based on seemingly innocuous comments in an antecedent scene followed by relationship and scenario changes in a following scene. In other words, you have to make assumptions about what has happened. That might sound complex, but the aim, which is wonderfully achieved, is actually to simplify the events on screen. Although that famous Asian horror film dream logic is still present in the supernatural events, it doesn't usurp the plot, which continues to gradually hone in on and build up the tension between Yoshimi, her husband, Ikuko, the mystery girl, and the apartment complex. The ending, which comments on all of those elements and the profound ways that they've changed, is particularly uncanny and poignant.
This is my idea of a horror movie. No junk, no noise, no random jolts, but plenty of fear, delivered quietly and compactly, without fuss. It's the most suspenseful movie I've seen since "Ring," and I think it's even better. Like that movie, it put my stomach in knots to prep them for the chills, which rose up like waves out of calm water. I thought "Ring" rather like a Robert Aickman story; this is as near as a movie can come. The director has uncanny skill in knowing where to place the camera and how long to hold a shot. And the leading actress gives a wonderful performance. Her face in the elevator...but that would be giving it away. The conclusion is foreseeable--maybe the ends of all ghost stories are foreseeable--but nonetheless satisfying. If you like tales of quietly disturbing dread, this is one for you.
A story very similar in certain areas to another story by Hideo Nakata, but different enough to stand apart. Using similar techniques to the Ring series, Nakata employs askew camera angles, wide shots and the mixing of foreground and background, showing normality in one and abnormality in the other, often with the horrors in the background, unnoticed by the foreground characters. The use of audio, and indeed lack of in parts, heightens the tension and the feeling of unease even more. Throughout the film a nervousness grows, beginning with a slight niggle of something wrong, building to the final shocking realisations. Despite understanding the story before the end is reached, Nakato manages to pull you on through the story, in fact, even past where other films would have ended. Acting from the child is stunningly good, as is with the mother, with much of the story played out in the emotions of their faces rather than their actual words. This is perhaps what succeeds so well, the realism of the dialogue and the slow brooding story, with a distinct lack of action. Something Hollywood attempts to recreate in their unoriginal remakes.
Hideo Nakata's "Dark Water" is one of the creepiest Japanese horror movies I have ever seen.A nervous mother Yoshimi Matsubara,undergoing divorce proceedings,moves into an apartment building that is haunted by a young girl,who disappeared years earlier."Dark Water" is a perfect horror film.It is based on a novel by Koji Suzuki,so fans of "Ringu" won't be disappointed.Nakata's technique is to imply terror by suggestion,rather than the overuse of special effects.He perfectly captures an atmosphere of uncontrollable fear.Hitomi Kuroki is excellent as the neurotic,paranoid Yoshimi and Rio Kanno is equally remarkable as her five year old daughter,Ikuko.So if you're a fan of Japanese horror give this one a look.10 out of 10.Highly recommended.
In the middle of a difficult custody battle over her 6 year old daughter
with her ex husband, Yoshimi Matsubara takes a flat in an old building in
order to get some stability in their lives. However the problems start with
a constant and spreading leak in the ceiling of their flat and the sense of
someone else being around the building. Yoshimi becomes increasingly on
edge when Ikuko appears to be effected.
Setting out my stall from the start I really liked Ringu and was happy to see this film from the same director. I knew nothing about it when I sat in the cinema and I think that is the best way to see it (although my plot synopsis about will have spoilt nothing). Dark Water continues Nakata's ability of unsettling audiences with little devices. Here he stays with the child theme from Ringu and it works very well despite being a much simpler plot that isn't anywhere near as clever as the other film. However in terms of delivering scares Nakata builds with shadowy images and creeping effects the spread of the leak across the ceiling is creepy and the reoccurring image of a child's pink bag becomes increasingly unnerving as the film progresses.
The direction is strong throughout with the camera preferring to turn to see what the characters see rather than having something leap into view or simply be cut to this turning movement can take seconds where our tension is build by being kept waiting. Again the use of shadowy figures and fleeting glimpses of things is very creepy and it really worked for me much better than all the gore in the world. It is a little ironic that one of the biggest jumps from the audience came from the film's one use of CGI effects, but this worked well simply due to the build up of suspense all the way through.
To compliment this the film uses music and sound very well. On the odd occasional it does the tradition thing where the music builds to up the tension, this works but is not unusual. What works better is the use of music WHEN the creeps arrive! Whenever Yoshimi looks at the leak the music gives it an unnerving quality that may not have existed with the shot alone. The simple plot makes for an effective little ghost story there is an element of mystery here but it is more about the suspense than the history. This is OK but the ending is a little more predictable than I would have liked (at first glance) and the epilogue didn't really work for me and I felt it needed a stronger close (not necessarily a jump though). I say `at first glance' because it appears predictable but really it changes where I thought the film was going and the whole basis for the creepy scenes ie I had assumed that the girl was taking Ikuko for play etc I'll say no more but you'll understand when you see it.
The cast were good. My friend said that Kuroki's Yoshimi was so sappy she wanted to slap her but I actually thought she played it well. She convinced me she was a woman going through an emotionally challenging time and was being pushed. There was an element of her overplaying (maybe? It could be taken as realism) the fear in order to heighten the audience's but really this was benefical to the film as a whole. Kanno's Ikuko is excellent I can't imagine a child I know being able to cope with that sort of filming but she does it very well and is a million miles from the annoying brats that Western films seem to dig up when required. These two are excellent and have reasonable support characters but the real star is a character you only really glimpse and the creepy atmosphere created by Nakata.
Overall anyone who saw the remake of Ringu (and it was No1 for a while) should ignore the subtitles and go and see this. It lacks the depth of Ringu and the epilogue's search for a greater significance is a little plodding and out of place, but it is still an effective ghost story that is a painfully slow at times but only serves to make it genuinely unnerving and creepy throughout.
My theory of why I responded so strongly with Dark Water is that it's
about people that you can relate to. It isn't about a cop who searches
for the serial killer leaving cryptic puzzles, nor a lawyer who defends
a crazy murderer who may not be the real killer, etc. It's about a
single mother who's on the verge of losing one thing she cares for the
most - her daughter.
She has to go for job interviews, she has to find a place to live with little money, and she has to see a divorce lawyer to fend off her rather nasty (yet not unreasonable) husband. Life's tough for Yoshimi, and who could not identify with her? I certainly did, and maybe it's the main reason why the movie worked on me so well.
I sympathised her character and her predicament. I cared for her choice. I kept thinking, 'God, please give this poor woman a break.', but as every good movie must, problems keep piling up on her already over-burdened shoulder, and the ghost haunting that old, damp apartment doesn't help her situation.
As many other reviewers mentioned, this is not all that scary. If you are looking for pure Asian horror to scare you s***less, this isn't it. But on some level it worked on me better than, say, Grudge, because the characters inhabit this picture felt real. Natural performances from the little girl were just amazing (except a couple of spots where her acting was just little off), but overall I totally bought her character.
When she says she needs no one but her mother, I felt a tingle of sensation in my eyes - I wanted them to be together as their love seemed so real. Hitomi Kuroki, playing the motehr, nicely underplays her role - she is polite and tries so hard to pull her life together against overwhelming odds. She is the center of this picture in every single sense.
Also consider the characters in Dark Water, they are all firmly grounded on reality. The divorce lawyer for example, when she tells him that she sees a ghost, he calmly examines the apartment and offers the most reasonable advice that any lawyer would give. Even the husband, while nasty, never oversteps the line of a villain. He after all does care for the welfare of the little girl, and concerns that she sometimes doesn't pick up the child in time.
This is a sad, tragic drama that deals with the souls of the children abandoned and lost by their parents. When that yellow flashback plays on the screen, I felt more pity than horror, so much so the last scene where Yoshimi held up that dead child, maybe it all made sense.
Ending perhaps was little weak - maybe because I cared so much about Yoshimi and her daughter, I just wanted them to be happy and together. Not like this. All great movies regardless their genre constructs human drama as its core. While this may not be a great movie, but a damned fine human drama with a streak of horror this is.
The silence the newly divorced mother and her 6 year old daughter
experience in an apartment block they have just moved into sets the
mood here. We see how they are together realistically, that means lots
of silence and little action. One aspect that makes this scary is this
realistic depiction of isolation you can get in these houses. And you
cant help but wish the best for the two, struggling with work, the
divorce rights and beginning school. And it rains.
Water starts dripping from the ceiling and soon it permeates the whole building creating an uneasy and nervous mood that sneaks in on you and when you're not ready for it makes your nerves scream. You know its gonna happen and you get a good idea of where its leading, but its so well made that it doesn't matter.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Right, lets make one thing clear. This film does not match the
intensity or the verve of what the Ring trilogy was. Now that we have
that clear lets carry on.
****WARNING THE FOLLOWING COULD BE CONSIDERED AS A SPOILER****
Right from the beginning of the film you know it is from the same director. It once again follows the same style. The story without spoiling it is about a divorced mother moves in with her child to a shabby apartment block.
The apartment block itself even though occupied with people looks ominous to begin with. The long narrow corridor lack warmth and the doors of the apartment are metal giving it a cold prison like feel. As you see the apartment for the first time its is devoid of character just dark and foreboding.
Throughout the film we learn about the characters and see them develop. The mothers character is complex. A woman of the edge of a breakdown who is going through a bitter custody battle for her daughter. Yet she carries on for her daughters sake. The fact that her ceiling is leaking water and she sees strange sightings of something does not help.
The end, when it does come is truly gripping, we learn the mystery of the dripping water and the strange sightings. Like Hideos ring trilogy the film slowly builds to another classic scary climax. Before then you are left in suspense as various thing happen here and there. His genius lies in the fact he could take something simple like a child's bag and surround it with sinister elements. Like the Ring Trilogy the end is of someone making a sacrifice to protect a loved one even though that person will be damned to spend time in horror.
Only complaint I have about the film is who on earth chooses the music. It simply spoilt some parts of the film and that person needs to be fired.
The ending was fantastic but as already mentioned its not even close to the Ring trilogy. Still nonetheless in it's own right it is a brilliant film which I recommend watching very late at night.
The reviser Yoshimi Matsubara (Hitomi Kuroki) has just divorced from
her husband and is disputing the custody of their five years old
daughter Ikuko Matsubara (Rio Kano) in the justice. She is looking for
an apartment and a job to restart her life alone with Ikuko. She finds
a small old apartment, and she does not pay attention to a stain of
water on the ceiling. When she moves to the apartment, she notes that
there is a drip of water in the bedroom, and she asks the landlord to
repair the leakage. Meanwhile, Ikuko finds a red bag on the terrace,
and Yoshimi returns it to the administrator. Yoshimi sees the creepy
shape of a girl wearing a yellow coat, and she finds that she resembles
a young girl that has been missing for two years in the neighborhood.
She becomes afraid that the girl might be a ghost.
"Honogurai Mizu no Soko Kara" is a tense low-paced horror movie, with a frightening and original story. The characters and the situation are slowly developed, the climax is scary, but I did not like the conclusion. I was really a little disappointed, since I expected much more. However, this film is another great Japanese horror movie, the best producers of this genre in the present days. My vote is seven.
Title (Brazil): "Dark Water Água Negra" ("Dark Water Black Water")
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Dark Water is a truly unique film in that it worked on two different
levels with me. First, it worked as a horror movie. No, it's not
pee-your-pants scary with buckets of blood. Instead it's just plain old
creepy with lots of spooky atmosphere. Even though much of the horror
lurks at the periphery, it's a constant, definite presence. And when
the horror does spill into the characters everyday lives, it's very
effective. Who would have thought that a little girl's Kimiko bag could
be so eerie? Second, Dark Water works as a drama. I bought the pain of
the mother fighting to keep her child. And I felt the joy as the two
played together. And in the end, when the mother realizes what she must
do to save her child, I felt the heartbreak of both characters.
The whole thing works because of some great acting. Hitomi Kuroki gives a remarkable performance as the mother. I believed and felt everything she was going through. Most of the Asian films I have seen recently have had good acting, but Kuroki's performance stands above the rest. As for the little girl, she's not the annoying child I'm so used to seeing in films like this. She seems real. It's a nice job by such a young person.
My rating would be higher if it weren't for the predictable nature of what happened to the missing Mitsuko. It's should be apparent to anyone (other than the characters in Dark Water) where the child is and how she died. Still, it's a remarkable ride to an inevitable discovery.
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