This 2002 scary Japanese girl movie follows a divorced proofreader (Hitomi Kuroki – Elastigirl in the Japanese Incredibles dub) who’s fighting to keep custody of her 6-year-old daughter (Rio Kanno). Together they move into a flat with a leaking ceiling (presumably student accommodation) and a damp ghost.
Dark Water is another creepy J-Horror from the novelist and director of Ring (Koji Suzuki and Hideo Nakata respectively). The film’s slow buildup drips disconcertingly into your head before eventually submerging you in emotional horror.
The claustrophobic focus on 2 characters plays like The Babadook only soggier (The Babaduck), while a game of Hide-and-Seek brings to mind the use of Grandmother’s Footsteps in The Orphanage. Like both those films, it’s the story of a mother coming to terms with loss – in this case confronting the fear of losing custody of her daughter.
Kuroki (who also provided a voice in Ghibli ghost story When Marnie Was There) is highly sympathetic as the woman with an even bigger leakage problem than Donald Trump (the proofreader’s natural enemy), and it’s the day-to-day nature of her horrors (plumbing, broken lifts etc) that make them convincing.
What makes them frightening is the shiver-inducing atmosphere – the dripping sound design and brilliantly horrible apartment set. It’s also the rainiest movie ever made, to the point that it even rains indoors. It makes Se7en look like heaven. That means a raincoat is required, lending the film an unnerving Don’t Look Now vibe – plus there’s the best elevator effect since The Shining.
Like all J-Horror it was remade (with Jennifer Connelly and Tim Roth) into something of a damp squib. The original is a mould movie to rival 2013 horror comedy Motivational Growth – and while it may not be perfect, its haunting qualities seep in through the flaws.