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Dark Water

Year: 2002
Director: Hideo Nakata
Writer: Ken'ichi Suzuki/Yoshihiro Nakamura
Cast: Hitomi Kuroki, Rio Kanno

Back around the early 2000s Hideo Nakata was a one man genre, much like the artists behind spaghetti westerns or video nasty-era slashers. After the success of Ringu and its sequel, he took what he was good at (dingy locales, black hair, water) and ran with it in this old school ghost story.

When a young mother, Yoshimi (Hitomi Kuroki) is going through a divorce with her smug ex husband, she's trying to find a decent place to live for herself and their daughter Ikuko (Rio Kanno). A realtor shows them enthusiastically through a dump whose only standout feature is the water stain spreading steadily across one of the bedroom ceilings, but Yoshimi doesn't have much choice.

Being a ghost story it's inherently a mystery tale and a slightly Hitchcockian one in that the strange goings on point to a darker story in the background Yoshimi has to try and get to the bottom of.

First it's a child's bag that keeps turning up no matter how often she tries to get rid of it. It's strands of hair in their water. The stain on the ceiling getting so large and sodden it seems like the roof might cave in. Yoshimi also sees a young girl running around the apartment block out of the corner of her eye, but she figures she's just reacting to the ongoing trauma we see in flashbacks of when she was left at school as a girl with nobody to pick her up, a fate she's increasingly afraid Ikuko will suffer too.

With a new job and her lawyer urging her to remain stable for the sake of her custody case, Yoshimi tries to hold everything together. But it seems like every time Ikuko's out of her sight something horrible happens, and as she learns more about what happened to a young girl Ikuko's age who lived in the apartment the year before, Yoshimi becomes more afraid the perpetrator might be something otherworldly.

It sticks very much to the creative aesthetic of The Ring, and some of the visual motifs like Ikuko's dead straight black bob and the contrast between the grimy, slightly greenish apartment complex and elements like the recurring red bag make it cinematic. If you were (or are still) a fan of this brief but influential film movement, you'll get a lot out of it.

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