Film / 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
This film and its remake contain examples of:
- Abusive Parents: A recurring theme.
- 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.
- Adult Fear: All over the place:
- The very real possibility that your unpleasant, possibly abusive ex gets sole custody of your only child.
- Your child goes missing in a strange new environment, starts acting strangely, falls ill for no reason, and shortly after seems to be targeted by someone or something that means them harm.
- For Mitsuko's father: your young child going missing, never to be seen again, is pretty much every parents' worst nightmare. It later turns out she was far closer than anyone thought.
- Alien Geometries: A subtle example occurs during the original's Distant Finale. The apartment block is now abandoned and has fallen into severe disrepair, but Ikuko's old apartment is just as clean and pristine as it was before Yoshimi's death.
- Alternative Foreign Theme Song: The Japanese release of the American remake has a different theme song.
- Ambiguous Situation: In the US version, Dahlia believes that her ex, Kyle, is harassing her. Whether he actually is, or if Dahlia is merely paranoid, is left vague.
- 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.
- Artifact of Doom: The red bag (a pink Hello Kitty bag in the remake). Well, more like "Artifact of Dread", but, still.
- Bittersweet Ending:
- 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.
- Broken Bird: Yoshimi and Dahlia.
- 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. It isn't.
- Chekhov's Gun: The water tank in both versions.
- Chekhov's Skill: In the remake, the way Dahlia braids Ceci's hair.
- Clingy Macguffin: The red bag. Yoshimi tries numerous times to get rid of it, but it always shows up again.
- 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.
- Creepy Doll: There's a few of them in Natasha's room.
- Crusty Caretaker: Present in both, but taken up to eleven in the American remake.
- A Date with Rosie Palms: Veeck is apparently engaging in a little... alone time whilst watching porn in his apartment before Dahlia interrupts him.
- Death by Adaptation: Yoshimi survives Floating Water, but dies in a Heroic Sacrifice in the film.
- Deliberately Monochrome: The flashbacks to Yoshimi's childhood, as well as those showing Mitsuko's final hours, are saturated with yellow.
- Distant Finale: In the Japanese version, following Yoshimi's Heroic Sacrifice, the film moves forward ten years to show a now 16-year-old Ikuko revisiting her old apartment, and encountering her mother's spirit.
- 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.
- The imagery during the opening credits is actually Mitsuko's POV in the water tank.
- Early on, Yoshimi finds a hair inside her glass of water. It later turns out that there's a decomposing corpse in the apartment block's water tank, and has been there for years.
- Gainax Ending: The remake. Is the haunting real, is Dahlia just losing her mind - or both?
- Ghostly Goals: Mitsuko only wants a new mother figure, to make up for the fact that her birth mother was neglectful... and she doesn't want to share her affections with Ikuko.
- Green-Eyed Monster: Mitsuko/Natasha wants Yoshimi/Dahlia to be her mother... but she does not want to share her. Her solution? Repeatedly try to kill Ikuko/Ceci.
- Grumpy Old Man: Kamiya has shades of this. His remake counterpart, Veeck, is even grumpier and even more of a jerk.
- Haunted House: The entire apartment complex feels Mitsuko's influence, but Yoshimi's apartment suffers from it most of all.
- Hazardous Water: Well, yes.
- Hope Spot: The mystery behind the Kawai's old apartment is uncovered, and Kishida manages to find some logical explanations for the strange events Yoshimi has experienced, ultimately convincing her to not move out, at least until the custody battle is over. The "hauntings" have stopped, and everything seems okay. Then Mitsuko's red bag suddenly reappears...
- Infant Immortality: Averted in the case of Mitsuko and Natasha. Played straight with Ikuko and Ceci.
- Ironic Nursery Rhyme: "Itsy Bitsy Spider" in the remake.
- 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!
- Both Kamiya and Veeck. They're grumpy, extremely disdainful of Yoshimi and Dahlia's concerns, and are unwilling to do their jobs properly. Also, in Veeck's case, he knew about Natasha's decomposing corpse in the water tank, but decided to leave it in there because "it wasn't his job".
- Jump Scare: A few, but Mitsuko denting the water tank from inside is a particularly notable example. Shame the trailer spoils it.
- In the remake, when Dahlia discovers Natasha's corpse, she sees the latter's eyes suddenly open for a split second.
- Leave the Camera Running: When Ikuko returns to the apartment as a teenager, the camera stays on a single shot from the moment she enters the apartment up until she sees Yoshimi's ghost.
- Mama Bear: Yoshimi and Dahlia.
- 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.
- Nice Guy: Yoshimi's lawyer, Kishida. He instantly decides to help Yoshimi win the custody battle upon witnessing her break down, and tries to help her until the very end.
- Nightmare Face: Mitsuko. When her face is finally revealed, it is horribly rotted from years spent decomposing in the water tank.
- Nothing Is Scarier: A good amount of both films run on this.
- Oh, Crap!: Yoshimi towards the end. If Ikuko is in the hallway... then who is in the elevator with her? It's Black Water Mitsuko...
- Yoshimi gets another one earlier on when she finally pieces together the truth at the end: the date the water tank was last cleaned is the exact same date as when Mitsuko was last seen alive.
- Only Known by Their Nickname: Ikuko is usually called Iku-chan by her mother. Cecilia is usually referred to as Ceci.
- Parental Abandonment: Yoshimi was abandoned by her mother at a young age. The same thing happened to Mitsuko. It's pretty obvious why Yoshimi feels some empathy for the little ghost.
- Parental Substitute: Yoshimi and Dahlia find themselves forced to assume this role to Mitsuko and Natasha.
- Product Placement: Hello Kitty and Barbie in the remake.
- Psychological Horror: Both the Japanese and US versions, with the former being more overtly supernatural as well. The latter plays up the psychological aspects more by leaving it ambiguous as to whether there really is a haunting or not.
- 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.
- Smug Smiler: Yoshimi's ex, Kunio.
- Through the Eyes of Madness: The remake. Possibly. Possibly the original short story.
- Trailers Always Spoil: The big scare involving the water tank in the original.
- Wham Shot: Towards the end, when everything seems to be back to normal, Yoshimi gets Ikuko's school bag to prepare for the following day... only to find the red bag inside it.
- Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Mitsuko. She was neglected by her mother, and meets a tragic end by drowning. She then has her spirit bound to the apartment block, with her sole goal to find a new mother figure.