Friday, July 8, 2011

Honogaurai Mizu no Soko Kara (Dark Water) (2002)
JAPAN --- horror

Dir: Hideo Nakata

Japanese director Hideo Nakata returned to the world of horror author Koji Suzuki, with his adaptation of the short story “Floating Water”. The simplistic story revolves around a woman named Yoshimi Matsubara and her young daughter Ikuko, going through a turbulent divorce. The husband, Kunio Hamada, seems manipulative and unrelenting about his commitment to gain full custody of their five-year-old daughter. Yoshimi tries to convince their legal councils that she is capable of taking care of Ikuko, seeing how she’s already marred herself having gone through therapy over her job. She was a proofreader, and she claims that some of the books would sometimes give her anxiety and nightmares. Now, unemployed, she finds a way to convince them she can take care of her daughter.

The two move into a less than stellar apartment tenement plagued with plumbing problems and an untrustworthy landlord and worthless old janitor. The apartment they move into looks like it could be an unkempt relic of another time, including a foreboding water stain on the bedroom ceiling. Yoshimi learns that a young girl had disappeared from the building a year before, which doesn’t make her living there with her young girl any more pleasing. To make matters more interesting, Ikuko seems to repeatedly find a child’s red bag, one Yoshimi comes to discover is identical to the missing girl’s bag. The water issues are far more than plumbing problems, as puddles are found in the apartment building, a glass of water from the faucet contains hair, and that leaky ceiling doesn’t seem to cease.

After successfully landing a job, and getting Ikuko back into school at the local kindergarten. Her ex-husband begins playing games with her in an effort to gain custody of Ikuko. Meanwhile, just as Yoshimi and Ikuko begin to fortify their relationship, Yoshimi comes discover the little girl who disappeared may be haunting the building. Yoshimi finds conclusive evidence of this, when she learns that the girl lived right upstairs from their apartment, attended the same school that Ikuko is, and that the little red bag did indeed belong to her. All of this leads to a surprising yet melancholy climax, revealing just what truly did happen to the missing little girl and what her connection is to the water.

"Honogaurai Mizu no Soko Kara" is one of Hideo Nakata’s most atmospheric efforts, possibly better than Ringu. It evokes the dreariness of rain soaked streets, be it outside or indoors. The moody shots are tinged to a sickly yellowish filter to focus on flashbacks, and it’s effective. Nakata even takes use again of the videotape look of he utilized in Ringu with a security camera shot of the elevator, something that always made me wonder in a building that couldn’t seem to afford such a luxury. All in all, this film’s underlying story isn’t necessarily about the ghosts of children or the key signs of bad plumbing, it more or less is a sad cautionary tale about family or moreover the relationship between mother and daughter. The movie reminded me of John Mayer’s sappy Grammy winning song “Daughters” in that regard. However, it is a compelling ghost story, as most great ghost stories are primarily there for emotional exposition that the main characters must be guided through whether they know it or not.