Saturday, October 3, 2015

Film Review: Dark Water (2002)

Dark Water (Review)
Japan/2002
Format Viewed For Review: DVD
Netflix Instant: No
Amazon Prime: No
*A 31 Days of Halloween Special Review!

"Rarely does a horror film leave an impact like Dark Water."

In the midst of a divorce and custody battle, Yoshimi Matsubara (Hitomi Kuroki) moves into a tumbledown apartment with her daughter, Ikuko (Rio Kanno), where the pair find an ominous presence lurking...

Dark Water is a horror-drama film. The plot primarily follows Yoshimi and Ikuko as they settle into their new home – moving in, signing up for kindergarten, applying for a job, and so on. Of course, it's never that easy or normal. Yoshimi soon begins to notice a water stain on the ceiling of her bedroom, as well a child's red bag. As hard as she attempts to ignore the stain, it continues to grow; as many times as she disposes the child's bag, it continues to return. On top of that, Yoshimi begins to see an eerie young girl traversing the ominous apartment complex. Eventually, the pieces come together for a grizzly reveal. The ending paints a poignant portrait of tragedy – it leaves a haunting impression.

Dark Water is a great film. First and foremost, this film is more of a blend of drama and horror than a straightforward horror film. Although it is always drenched in an ominous ambiance, the film takes time to develops its characters. Don't fret, though, this focus on drama actually amplifies the traditional horror in this film. Sure, there aren't many jump-scares, but the film leaves an impression through its haunting plot – through eerie visuals, ghastly sounds, and tormented characters. It won't jump out and scare you very often, but when you finish the film and you actually think about, it'll certainly hit you hard – like a bulldozer hitting drywall. I should warn you, though: much like Ringu, the film moves at a slow pace – occasionally too slow for its own good.

The splendid blend of drama and horror is bolstered by the great cast. Hitomi Kuroki immerses herself in her troubled character. You can see the fear and pain in her facial expressions. Rio Kanno also delivers a great performance as a child actress – very impressive. The film looks like what you'd expect – a little grungy to craft some ominous scenes. The music is subtle but effective – a melancholic and spooky soundtrack. Director Hideo Nakata, who also directed Ringu and Ringu 2, crafts another spine-chilling tale of supernatural tragedy. Through meticulously-crafted characters and scares, Nakata creates a truly effective horror film.

Overall, Dark Water is a great film. It effectively uses elements of drama to amplify its horror – something I believe films like The Exorcist have done masterfully before it. Its pacing may be too slow at times, but it generally works well as a slow-burn horror film throughout most of its runtime. The ending, although missing the iconic punch of Ringu, offers something more tangible – for lack of a better term. Rarely does a horror film leave an impact like Dark Water. Definitely worth watching for fans of slow-burn J-horror films.

Score: 8/10
Parental Guide: Some disturbing images.

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