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Dark Water (2002)

Honogurai mizu no soko kara

A ghost story which seeps into your consciousness

Rating: 9/10

Running Time: 101 minutes

UK Certificate: 15

The partnership of director Hideo Nakati and writer Koji Suzuki first came to public attention with their groundbreaking horror film “Ring”. “Ring” was, deservedly, a huge box-office success in Japan and acquired a loyal fan base abroad, spawning a franchise of sequels and many imitators, including the recent, somewhat inferior Hollywood remake, “The Ring”. With “Dark Water”, the pair has reunited to make another ghost story involving a single mother, a creepy girl and a watery grave – but there all resemblances end.

Recently divorced, and caught in a bitter custody battle with her ex-husband, Yoshimi Matsubara (Hitomi Kuroki) moves into an apartment with her 5-year old daughter Ikuko (Asami Mizukawi), eager not to abandon Ikuko the way her own mother had abandoned her in her childhood. Yet as the ceiling of the apartment starts to leak uncontrollably, Yoshimi's life begins to unravel. With the building getting damper and damper, Yoshimi becomes obsessed with a missing girl who used to live upstairs. Ikuko gets a mystery illness, feet can be heard running about on the deserted floor above, there is something not right about the tap water, and soon the building seems to be bursting at the seams with the terrible secret it contains.

Nakati is a master of the uncanny, able to transform something as innocent as a little girl's shoulder bag into an object to inspire terror. “Dark Water” positively oozes atmosphere, building up the tension slowly before allowing it to overflow into irrational shocks and strange epiphanies. Yet just beneath its surface horror this film conceals a deep reservoir of tragedy, addressing themes like family breakdown, isolation, abandonment, and – something of a taboo in Japan – the terrible legacy of mental illness. In the end, the keynote of “Dark Water” is not so much horror as an overwhelming sadness, in this masterpiece of tormented souls.

A film which seeps into your consciousness like a slow-dripping tap.

It's Got: sombre chills, psychological depth

It Needs: wider distribution, and a good plumber


Women on the verge of a Japanese ghost story.