A Battle for Custody
Japanese director, Hideo Nakata’s “Dark Water” tells the story of Yoshimi (Hitomi Kuroki) who is in an intense custody battle with her husband over their 6-year-old daughter Ikuko (Rio Kanno). Yoshimi rents an apartment in an old building and looks for a job. The apartment is dank but livable with a slowly spreading water stain on the ceiling. When Ikuko finds a Hello Kitty bag (which reappears no matter how many times Yoshimi throws it away), she starts to hear footsteps in the overhead abandoned apartment. Yoshimi learns that a little girl living in the apartment above mysteriously vanished a year before and she begins looking at what happened back then causing her to question whether or not she is fit and able to take care of her daughter who she thinks might be in some kind of supernatural danger.
“Dark Water” is an original 2002 Japanese thriller, that is just about as perfect and predictable as a ghost movie can be. The characters make foolish decisions, and the “ghost” is elusive, dropping clues, willing to communicate remains glib. It is not enough that Yoshimi suffers from the problems connected to her divorce, her new apartment has a leak and the more the black water infiltrates her home, the more unstable Yoshimi becomes. Then….
Extremely late one afternoon, Yoshimi, while searching for her missing daughter, sees a poster of a girl who has been missing for 2 years. Soon afterwards, she has visions or dreams about this girl. Suddenly she knows things that she should not and she begins seeing the girl in the apartment above, where the water comes from. The child has hair covering her eyes and her face is a blur.
The film begins as a frivolous horror picture and then becomes something more sinister and uncomfortable. It tricks its audience into sympathy by using a child and that bothered me. Of course, Yoshimi was also having to deal with a nasty divorce. This had already caused her world to be difficult and she fears that the lawyers might take her child.
Yoshimi’s imagination creates a separate horror, that of the child in the yellow raincoat. We see that child as a ghost who wants to replicate her passing, as if the loneliness of the unburied yearns for affection in death. Hideo Nakata’s technique is to imply terror by suggestion, rather than the overuse of special effects. He depends upon the collaboration of his actors to create a feeling of uncontrollable fear. Hitomi Kuroki is brilliant as the neurotic, paranoid Yoshimi, whose inability to remain safe in her own head exacerbates the likelihood that the court might find her an unfit mother, thereby destroying her will to live and, in some bizarre way, increasing the power of the fantastic child to influence the workings of a dysfunctional plumbing system.
Rio Kanno, as Ikuko, is equally brilliant as we watch her innocence come apart.
Dark and murky water is everywhere in this film, and it’s an integral part of the plot as well, giving us clues and images that propel the story and hint as to what’s happened and what’s coming. Nakata generates a quiet menace, and this film very quickly gets under our skin. We are taken into Yoshimi’s head and feel her combination of fear and defiance.
Bonus materials include:
– High Definition digital transfer
– High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
– Original 5.1 audio (DTS-HD on the Blu-ray)
– Brand new interview with director Hideo Nakata
– Brand new interview with novelist Koji Suzuki
– Brand new interview with cinematographer Junichiro Hayashi
– Archive interview with actress Asami Mizukawa
– Original ‘Making of’ documentary
– Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Peter Strain
– First pressing only: illustrated collector’s booklet containing new writing by David Kalat, author of J-Horror: The Definitive Guide to The Ring, The Grudge and Beyond, and an examination of the American remake by writer and editor Michael Gingold