Dark Water

Dark Water ★★★★½

Relentless J-Horror Halloween
I'm frantically studying for a Japanese test. So, instead of my usual international horror month of October, I'm watching nonstop J-Horror.

Dark Water was quite the ride, but not the one I expected. Being from ostensibly the same crew that brought us Ringu (director, writer, cinematographer, composer), I was ready for this to scare the fuck out of me. And, yes, this is a very spooky film and a scene or two sent a proper shiver down my spine ("MAMA!"), but this is not a skin-crawling, burnt-into-your-brain-forever nightmare of VHS tapes and wells. Instead, it is, quite surprisingly, an incredibly powerful and emotionally affecting horror film. The film's final act is heart-breaking to the point that I found myself rather breathless; its final scenes well and truly destroying me. The restraint is phenomenal and the script is beautifully constructed. This is a rare case where the film well and truly surpasses the source material. While I really like the work of Koji Suzuki (the Ringu books are utterly insane), I found Dark Water to be one of his weaker stories. But this film takes its basic structure and fleshes it out into something complex and moving—a deconstruction of modern life and the horrors of single parenthood. I love the look of early 2000s J-Horror and this is not exception with its muted (but not too muted) tones and wobbly (but not too wobbly) camerawork. Everything just works really well in a quiet, underhanded kind of way. This one will haunt me for a while.