Every so often I come across a horror movie which tickles my fancy solely on one scene in the whole movie. Not to discredit Dark Water's incredible acting, plot or execution, but one scene in this entire hour and forty minute journey sealed the deal for me. There is a sequence in the latter part of the movie that I will regard as the most terrifying experience I have ever endured while watching a horror movie. Some might agree with me, while I believe most will cast this movie into a pile of Asian imports that don't measure up to the masterpieces put forth in mainstream flicks previously introduced to our western culture. Although some call this movie a watered down Ringu, I call it a storyline masterpiece, one which unfortunately, like the Eye, will receive the American makeover.
The story revolves around a broken family, where the mother, Yoshimi, and daughter, Ikuko, are searching for a place to live when they are dismissed by the father. In contrast to Ringu's vengeance based storyline, Dark Water delves into the psychological issues of abandonment and how in some lives, it is a recurring theme. In the opening sequence, we see a little girl in grade school waiting for her parent to pick her up, all the while the other children are happily returning home with their mommies. We find out that this little girl is Yoshimi, the mother, as she is reflecting on her past when she was abandoned by her mother at school. Yoshimi is awaiting a litigation by mediators in the separation of her and her husband, and a custody battle over their six year old daughter Ikuko. Yoshimi is desperately trying to keep custody of her daughter out of love and to break the recurrence of abandonment set by her mother when she was the same age as Ikuko. During the litigation it is brought up that Yoshimi had to undergo psychiatric help due to her inability to deal with her mother abandoning her, and that she has a tendency to break out into psychotic episodes. Yoshimi loses her cool and after the session is confronted by another lawyer that promises to help her keep her daughter.
We then cut to Ikuko, who is awaiting her mother's arrival to pick her up from school, very similar to the opening sequence of the young Yoshimi being abandoned. Finally, Yoshimi arrives to pick up Ikuko and the two set off to look at an apartment for them to settle their lives in. Their final destination in apartment hunting leads them to a run down complex, where the owner is chasing after potential buyers of the apartment that Yoshimi was to look at. After brief introductions, the owner, Yoshimi and Ikuko head inside to look at the apartment. Yoshimi begins to get an uneasy feeling about the complex and it intensifies when she sees a puddle of water in the run down elevator. The apartment owner yells at the super to clean it up immediately, and then the trio proceed to the apartment floor via the elevator. As the super watches them exit the elevator on camera, he notices another person in the corner of the elevator shrouded in darkness. The mysterious figure disappears as he looks away and leaves no trace when his eyes return to the screen. Inside the apartment we see that the domicile is sub par at best, almost identical to the lots at Cabrini Green in the Candyman. While showing off the apartment, the owner notices a sizable, murky water stain on the ceiling of the bedroom. He carts off Yoshimi to the kitchen to show her the rest of the apartment. Yoshimi notices that Ikuko is no longer in the apartment and begins to search for her frantically. She hops in the elevator and begins to search the building from top to bottom. The persons in the lobby say that they have not seen her daughter, but the super eludes to seeing a figure pass the cameras on the top floor. Yoshimi takes the elevator to the top floor and head up to the roof. She finds Ikuko on the roof, and Ikuko seems to have found a little red purse that belonged to some child that was there previous. Yoshimi gets creeped out by the purse and forbids Ikuko to go near it, and requests the super get rid of it right away.
As time passes in the new apartment we see that the litigation process is becoming more stressful on Yoshimi, and that her psychotic tendencies are becoming an issue with the mediators. She begins to neglect picking up Ikuko from school, and as the separation of the two becomes more evident, the water stain in the bedroom grows more feverishly. One day, Yoshimi forgets to pick up Ikuko and by the time she gets to the school, it is already nightfall. Whilst looking around for the obviously absent Ikuko, Yoshimi stumbles upon a missing persons poster of a young girl named Mitsuko, dated two years previous. She then sees an ominous little girl in a yellow raincoat standing across the street eerily. Yoshimi at first thinks it's Ikuko and gives chase, but then realizes that the girl is in fact Mitsuko, and the psychosis that she has been succumbing to has something to do with the disappearance of the little girl.
Not to be a party pooper, but I'm going to curtail the synopsis here, to allow the viewer to explore the movie themselves and draw their own interpretations from here on in. Dark Water becomes a bit maniacal from this point on, creating an atmosphere of paranoia and helplessness by putting both Yshimi and Ikuko in positions that can make any family oriented viewer feel pity for them. The movie does come to a point of predictability when Yoshimi figures out the connection between the girl's disappearance and the water stain on the ceiling, however, the subsequent actions of the movie take the viewer in a completely opposite direction than one would assume. The ending leaves a lot for interpretation, but if you can grasp it, the message becomes quite clear, as developed early in the story by Nakata and carried until the end.
Again I am left with a lasting impression by a movie that did not astound me FX wise, but rather with a storyline that is quite relevant to the psychological needs of the human entity. Abandonment does cause an intense amount of stress on the human psychi, and in some cases may cause people to literally lose their mind. Dark Water will have the viewer questioning the end result, pitting imagination versus the reality of a rather unfortunate situation.