Dark Water – 仄暗い水の底から – Honogurai Mizu no soko kara – literally “From the bottom of Dark Water” – is a 2002 Japanese horror film directed by Hideo Nakata (Ghost Theatre; The Complex; Ring and its sequel) from a screenplay by Yoshihiro Nakamura and Kenichi Suzuki. It is based on Floating Water, a short story by Koji Suzuki.
The plot follows a divorced mother who moves into a rundown apartment with her daughter, and experiences supernatural occurrences including a mysterious water leak from the floor above.
The film was remade in the US in 2005 under the same title, directed by Walter Salles and starring Jennifer Connelly.
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After winning a custody battle for her daughter, single mother Yoshimi moves into what she thinks is the perfect apartment with her daughter Hitomi. No sooner have they unpacked than strange things begin to disturb their new life.
A water leak from the supposedly abandoned apartment above gets bigger and bigger, a child’s satchel reappears even though Yoshimi throws it away several times, and she is haunted by the image of a child wearing a yellow mackintosh who bears a striking resemblance to a young girl who disappeared several years before…
“This really very scary Japanese ghost story from director Hideo Nakata exerts a chilling grip with its icy calm and eerie reticence … The movie’s denouement delivers not just a flash of fear but a strange, sweet charge of pathos – and the combination adds up to the most disturbing spell in the cinema I’ve had in a very long time” Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian
“Handling his set-pieces with real flair (Ikuko’s disastrous game of hide and seek will leave those of a nervous disposition gibbering under their seats), Nakata buoys up the script’s lulls with some memorable shocks. What’s more, by framing the psychological terror with a series of fraught symbols likely to have Dr Freud spinning in his grave with excitement, the film’s story of female hysteria is fascinatingly over-wrought.” Jamie Russell, BBC
“Dark Water is a character-driven piece that drops the ‘high-concept’ components (the curse, the urban legends and the technophobic paranoia) in favour of dramatic and emotional elements. Although ultimately it is a less successful film than Ring, in many respects these changes make it a more interesting and mature piece of work.” Jim Harper, Flowers from Hell: The Modern Japanese Horror Film
“In Dark Water, Yoshimi can be interpreted as the archetypical self-sacrificing woman, as commonly found in Japanese horror films of the 1950s and 1960s. As in Tales of Ugetsu, the death of mother is necessary in order to reunite the father with his child, and to enable the father to fulfil his familial duty. At the same time, Dark Water works within traditional Japanese mythology, which valorises the centrality of the maternal bond.” Colette Balmain, Introduction to Japanese Horror Film
Cast and characters:
- Hitomi Kuroki – Yoshimi Matsubara
- Rio Kanno – Ikuko Matsubara (six years-old)
- Mirei Oguchi – Mitsuko Kawai
- Asami Mizukawa – Ikuko Hamada (sixteen years-old)
- Fumiyo Kohinata – Kunio Hamada
- Yu Tokui – Ohta (real-estate agent)
- Isao Yatsu – Kamiya (apartment manager)
- Shigemitsu Ogi – Kishida (Yoshimi’s lawyer)
- Maiko Asano – Young Yoshimi’s Teacher
- Yukiko Ikari – Young Yoshimi