Dark Water (aka Honogurai Mizu no Soko kara, translating to "From Under the Murky Water") is a 2002 Japanese horror film directed by Hideo Nakata, best known for being the director of Ring and Ring 2. The film is based on Floating Water, a short story by Koji Suzuki (who also wrote the Ring series of novels), from his horror anthology also titled Dark Water. There is also a manga adaptation that holds little similarity to the film, although the apartment building is similar.The film was remade in the United States in 2005, under the same title.The film follows Yoshimi Matsubara, who is in the midst of a messy custody battle with her (highly unpleasant) ex-husband, Kunio Hamada, over their young daughter, Ikuko. Desperate to prove herself to be a fit parent to Ikuko, she moves herself and Ikuko into their own place, which happens to be an apartment held in a run-down old building. The building is somewhat eerie, but it suits Yoshimi just fine, for the time being. However, shortly after moving in, she notices that the ceiling of their apartment has a sinister and inexplicable damp patch, which continues to expand day by day. In the midst of Yoshimi finding a new job and Ikuko starting a new school, many strange and frightening events occur, several of which involve the mysterious appearance (and subsequent re-appearances) of a child's red bag. Eventually, Yoshimi discovers the horrifying truth behind these events, and realises that she and her daughter are in grave danger from the supernatural force permeating the apartment block.Not to be confused with the animated TV series The Pirates of Dark Water.
In the original, Yoshimi claims that Kunio has never been interested in Ikuko, not even bothering to remember her birthday. Also, Yoshimi's own mother - as well as Mitsuko's - both completely neglected their children.
In the remake, Dahlia makes similar claims about Kyle, but whether the claims are true or not is never expanded upon. Both of Dahlia's parents were abusive - her father physically, her mother emotionally - and both of Natasha's parents abandoned her.
And I Must Scream: Arguably Yoshimi's fate. She sacrifices herself to save Ikuko's life, but, as a consequence, has her spirit bound to her apartment, forced to be a mother to the same spirit who repeatedly tried to kill her daughter.
Anti-Villain: Mitsuko/Natasha may be a spiteful, malevolent ghost, but all she wants is a mother.
In the original: Yoshimi chooses to stay with Mitsuko and be a mother to her - which involves her dying - so Ikuko can live. Years later, a now 16-year-old Ikuko returns to her old apartment and is briefly reunited with Yoshimi's ghost. Thanks to Mitsuko's intervention, it doesn't last, but Ikuko is left secure in the knowledge that her mother has been protecting her and will always love her.
In the remake: Similar to the original, Dahlia chooses to stay - and die - with Natasha so Ceci can live. Three weeks later, Ceci, along with her father, are preparing to move in together. Ceci silently cries over the loss of her mother, but, just before leaving the building, she is apparently visited by Dahlia's spirit, who braids her hair and tells her how much she loves her before disappearing.
Break the Cutie: That is, break all the cuties. Yoshimi herself comes pre-broken, having suffered a mental breakdown several years prior to the events of the film. Her not-so-pleasant childhood doesn't help matters.
Cassandra Truth: When Yoshimi becomes convinced that she and Ikuko are being haunted, her fears are met with scepticism. Following a few logical explanations for the strange things she has experienced, she starts to hope that maybe everything is normal after all.
Creepy Child: Mitsuko and Natasha, big time. Also, Ikuko, usually the epitome of cuteness, has a couple of moments like this, such as the scene where she slowly starts to open the red bag, as if possessed, with an unbelievably creepy expression on her face.
The Faceless: Mituko's face is usually partially (sometimes completely) hidden or obscured throughout the movie (it's even difficult to make out in her "missing person" poster) - at least, until the climactic elevator scene.
Foreshadowing: A subtle example. The puddle of water in the elevator seems inconspicuous at first - until Mitsuko's ghost shows up standing in the same spot during the first visit to the building, and later when Yoshimi is looking for her missing daughter. Flashbacks show that Mitsuko stood in the same spot during her final hours.
Gainax Ending: The remake. Is the haunting real, is Dahlia just losing her mind - or both?
Jerkass: Kunio is not a pleasant man. Not only is he is apparently neglectful towards Ikuko, he uses extremely dirty tactics in his and Yoshimi's custody battle - such as exaggerating everything she does and bringing up psychological problems she suffered with and got over years before she married him!
Kyle fits into this trope somewhat, but not quite to the same extent, and becomes far more reasonable towards the end.
Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: The original short story, Floating Water, isn't entirely clear if there is a haunting at all, or if it is all in Yoshimi's mind - however, the ending suggests it is the latter. In the Japanese film, it's almost definitely a real haunting. The US remake, however, makes a point of being much more vague.
Meaningful Background Event: When Yoshimi finds Ikuko wandering in a daze in the Kawai's flooded apartment, Mitsuko's shadow is cast on the wall for a few seconds. Later, during the Distant Finale, Mitsuko appears behind Ikuko, glaring at her.
Mind Screw: The American remake is incredibly vague on whether it was all in Dahlia's mind, or a true haunting. Or both. It is also vague as to whether Kyle really is harassing her or not.
Never Trust a Trailer: While the American remake makes a point of differentiating itself from The Ring and The Grudge by downplaying the overt horror elements of the original and becoming more of a character study / dramatic psychological thriller with a focus on paranoia and atmosphere over scares, the trailers used scenes not in the movie, misplaced dialogue, and quick-cut editing to represent it as a generic teen-horror shocker.
Shout-Out: The scene in which vast amounts of water crash out of the elevator is a reference to the scene with blood emerging from the elevator in the film version of The Shining.
Slasher Smile: May or may not be intentional, but the smile on Ikuko's face when she first discovers the red bag is horribly unsettling. Much later, when she starts to open the bag, her smile manages to be even creepier. The way she is smiling in both of these scenes, the way the scenes are filmed and the accompanying creepy music score seem to imply that she may be supernaturally compelled to pick up and open the bag.