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Dark Water
Directed by Nakata Hideo

Starring: Ogi Shigemitsu, Kuroki Hitomi, Tokui Yu, Minakawa Asami
Running Time: 1:41
Country: Japon
Year: 2003
Web: Official Site
A new evil child from the duo that transformed our television sets into sudden objects of terrors—no, I'm not talking about the two finalists from American Idol but about writer Koji Suzuki and director Nakata Hideo, to whom we owe Ringu & Ringu 2Dark Water tries once again to scare us with a young ghost, trading a video cassette in for a downpour.

Yoshimi (Ogi Shigemitsu), a divorced mother, moves with her daughter into one of these large, austere and cold buildings where the doormen never appear when you need them. Soon she notes that that water leaks from the ceiling while noises of ceaseless steps are heard. While the leak spreads throughout the apartment, the young woman already psychologically weakened by her divorce, is also tormented by a small plastic child's bag that unflaggingly reappears, even after being thrown into the trash. In order to elucidate these phenomena, Yoshimi will have to confront a paranormal influence.

In Dark Water some recurring themes of Suzuki and Hideo's work are found. While generally in film water has a purifying, redemptive and vital value, often allowing characters to be revived (as in the recent films Respiro and Chaos & Desire), in Suzuki's world it's a vehicle of evil and a source of life for ungrateful avenging ghosts. In Ringu, the girl thrown in a well resurrects in the form of vindictive ghost while a swimming pool is used as the phantom's basin in Ringu 2. In Dark Water, water has the same virtues and whoever is familiar with Ringu will guess from the very start what it is, and especially where the source of the evil is. Suzuki's obsession for water is intriguing, and one wonders whether or not its origin can be in the acid rains that struck Japan after the explosions of the atomic bombs.

Suzuki also seems to be haunted by the break-up of the family core and recrudescent single-parent families where women raise children by themselves. While this theme reflects an increased tendency affecting Japanese society, through the flood a divine punishment is exerted. In Dark Water, just as in Ringu, the apparitions are justified by a lack of parental bound. In Ringu, the girl was killed by her father and she returns to get revenge while in Dark Water she considers herself abandoned and seeks a new maternal presence. Where Kinji Fukasaku depicted a drift of youth in Battle Royale, Suzuki seems to point towards its cause: parental irresponsibility.

While Suzuki's work is rich in subjacent themes, Dark Water liquefies in contact with the screen to evaporate once it's seen. The fruit of inspiration drying up or thirst for commercial success, the story is identical to that of Ringu, which makes the film predictable, giving it the feel of ersatz. In addition to the waterfalls, the picture tries to create fear with a small bag, but never manages to create a spark. What in this bag is so alarming? A collection of Vin Diesel thoughts? A DVD of the extended cut of Pola X? Jennifer Love-Hewitt's CD? None of that, and it's surprising to think that Suzuki and Hideo believed they could frighten us with such a simple device. By favoring the atmosphere rather than the effects, Hideo distills the fear so much he ends up drowning it in stagnation and generating boredom. Just like Ring, it is necessary to wait for the ending to finally get the thrills, but this time the repetitive narrative doesn't sustain our interest until then. The flooding has turned into a cold shower.

  Fred Thom

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