Thursday, August 25, 2005

DARK WATER

Well, it's official: these Japanese ghost stories just don't scare me. I thought RINGU was okay, but was unimpressed by THE GRUDGE. Now I've watched the original, Jennifer Connely-less Japanese version of DARK WATER (aka HONOGURAI MIZU NO SOKO KARA, 2001), and while it's a very well-made movie with great performances, it just didn't do much for me.

Yoshimi Matsubara (Hitomi Kuroki) is a decent woman attempting to make a new life for herself and her six-year-old daughter Ikuko (Rio Kanno) after a messy divorce and an ongoing custody battle with her asshole ex. She re-enters the workplace after some years as housewife and takes an apartment in a rundown apartment building. Soon, though, it becomes apparent that there's something weird going on – the ceiling starts leaking water, black hair comes out of the taps, and a little girl's purse keeps showing up out of nowhere. Is stress causing Yoshimi to come unglued, or is there something supernatural afoot?

The movie is based on a story by Kôji Suzuki (author of the novel "Ringu"), and well directed by Hideo Nakata, who brings to it much of the eerie atmosphere and creepiness that he brought to the film version of RINGU. But there's really not enough material here for a full feature film, and the pace becomes ponderous in the second act. It doesn't help that the audience is (or at least my wife and I were) way ahead of the characters on what's going on. And why are the Japanese so freaked out by hair and water?

On the plus side, Hitomi Kuroki brings a great deal of pathos to her performance and Rio Kanno is remarkably appealing as her daughter. The two of them, through their performances alone, carry the film through its padded midsection and kept me watching.

ADV presents DARK WATER in a gorgeous anamorphic widescreen transfer with a robust 5.1 sound mix in both English and Japanese. It's light on extras, though, containing only the usual batch of ADV trailers.

If you're a fan of Japanese ghost stories, or you liked the American remake and want to check out the original, ADV's disc is a good bet.

BUY: Dark Water