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Dark Water

February 8, 2011

Dark Water (2002)
Director: Hideo Nakata
Actors: Hitomi Kuroki, Rio Kanno, Mirei Oguchi

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Synopsis: A mother and young daughter move into an apartment with an infestation of water….

Review: I must confess to being fairly agnostic about the phenomena of J-Horror movies that burst onto the cinematic landscape in the late nineties and early noughties, and Dark Water – often considered to be the apex of that genre – is only modestly effective in my book. On the plus side, one thing clearly evident from Dark Water is that director, Hideo Nakata, knows his horror movie back-catalogue and is fully capable of putting together a genuinely spine-tingling sequence. He makes great use of the melancholic power of rainfall, the music he employs is pitch-perfect, and his cinematography is exceptional in creating genuine tension by subtly separating the camera (or the ‘gaze’) from its characters in certain scenes to suggest an alternate and sinister presence.

Sadly, Dark Water is a classic example of decent effects in service to a fairly banal narrative. The allegory of parental neglect and guilt becomes fairly obvious from the opening sequences, and Nakata has a tendency to use convenient flashbacks or telegraphed plot hooks to emphasise those themes. Equally problematic is the use of the central child ghoul (a similar motif to the one in Nakata’s more chilling Ringu). It’s never entirely clear if the missing child is meant to act as a harbinger of doom, or something a little more innocent and benevolent – I’m not entirely sure Nakata knows either – and perhaps if there had been an outright malevolent streak to the story, rather than Nakata aspiring to something more classically dramatic and ‘mature’, then Dark Water would have made for a more disquieting cinematic experience. (February 2011)

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