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Dark Water aka Honogurai mizu no soko kara
Running time: 101 minutes
Directed by: Hideo Nakata
Starring: Hitomi Kuroki
IMDB rating: 7.0
I guess my first thought before watching this was whether or not water could actually be scary. Of course, I knew it wouldn't be a film about water sneaking up behind people and attacking them (has there ever been a movie like that? I assume it'd be incredibly ****) but still, I was a bit sceptical that anything fear-inducing could take place with water as the main factor.
This is directed by Hideo Nakata, the man responsible for The Ring, which was very popular and in many ways kicked off the Japanese film boom of the past 10 years. I haven't seen The Ring for a long time, but my recollection is that it was deserving of the praise it received.
The film is about a mother and her daughter moving into a new apartment. It isn't the nicest of places, but following her divorce it's all the mother can afford. Not long after first arriving, her daughter finds a small red bag containing toys. Despite the mother throwing it away, it re-appears in the same place more than once. Additionally, she (and other characters) keep seeing a young girl walking around on her own.
She has to go to a custody hearing, as her husband wants their daughter to live with him instead. At the meeting, it's mentioned that the mother had previously been to a psychiatrist when she was younger and having problems. I thought that perhaps there was going to be the implication that she was imagining things, but the first character to see a shadowy figure is actually the manager of the apartment block, so we know straight away that there really is a supernatural prescence. I'm not sure if this was a good idea or not. On the one hand, making the viewer unsure of her perceptions might've given the film an extra something that it seemed to be lacking. On the other hand, it might've felt pointless, as most people would guess that what she was seeing was in fact real (because that's what seems to happen in 99.9% of the films that have used that technique).
I wasn't too impressed with Dark Water. Part of the reason is that it wasn't scary, and part of the reason is that I didn't really feel anything for any of the characters, apart from perhaps the daughter due to her vulnerability, but that had a lot more to do with her being a child than how well written she was a character.
At times, the movie requires characters to behave as if they're a moron in a bad slasher movie in order to work. For example, on two occassions in the film the young daughter leaves the apartment alone when her mother is asleep or in another room, and this obviously causes a big panic and for a while you think she might be kidnapped or murdered. A while later, the mother gets concerned about strange noises from upstairs, so she leaves the apartment to check what's going on, meaning that her vulnerable 6 year old daughter with a habit of running off is left completely alone.
Although I didn't think that the film was anything special in the first hour or so, it does get better towards to the end. The horror elements get going. I didn't find any of it scary, but that doesn't mean it wasn't entertaining, and the ending is very good.