While a mother (Yoshimi, played by Hitomi Kuroki) fights for custody of her six year old daughter Ikuku (Rio Kanno) after a recent divorce, a damp patch appears on the ceiling of their apartment, triggering eerie visions of a girl in a yellow raincoat. Kramer vs Kramer meets Don't Look Now? No, this is another spine chilling adaptation of a novel by Koji Suzuki, Japan's prime horror scribe.
If Ring – Hideo Nakata's first take on a Suzuki story – earns the crowd-pleasing honours with it's thrilling race against time narrative, Dark Water comes over as a more mature sleeper: perhaps Ring contains a higher percentage of shock moments, but Nakata's latest delivers longer, more concentrated bursts of terror, driven by one of the most effective horror soundtracks this side of Suspiria.
Once again, Nakata takes a parent/child relationship set against a modern day background of dark supernatural menace, and comes up with a stately meditation on every parent's most profound fear, culminating in a final 15 minutes that are, by turn, nerve-shredding, cruel, heartbreaking and haunting in the extreme. It works beautifully, as does the ever present water motif: whether it's the constant driving rain; sudden explosions of water; a tuft of black hair flushed out of a tap, or the ghost of a missing child, wet hair obscuring her face.
I suppose it's a fairly safe bet that Dark Water is already lined up for an American remake, though it's hard to believe any short-listed actress will match the performance of Kuroki, who excels as the lone parent battling to hold onto her child in the face of both earthly and supernatural intervention. One major point of interest concerns Yoshimi's precarious state of mind; possibly brought on by her job as proofreader of sadistic horror novels. It's an accepted fact that the written word can often be just as chilling as the moving image, and therefore refreshing to witness a director ready, willing and able to challenge this viewpoint. Scariest thing about this film? You'll see just how far a mother will go in order to maintain her status.