Dark Water is Japanese horror auteur Hideo Nakata's return to the genre after his Ring cycle made you too scared to watch television ever again. Where Ring dealt with a supernatural force wreaking revenge via technology, Dark Water is a much more traditional ghost story. After winning a custody battle for her daughter, single mother Yoshimi moves into what she thinks is the perfect apartment with her daughter Hitomi. No sooner have they unpacked than strange things begin to disturb their new life. A water leak from the supposedly abandoned apartment above gets bigger and bigger, a child's satchel reappears even though Yoshimi throws it away several times, and she is haunted by the image of a child wearing a yellow mackintosh who bears a striking resemblance to a young girl who disappeared several years before. The conventional narrative follows Yoshimi's increasingly desperate attempts to discover who or what force is haunting her daughter, but the story's execution is far from predictable. Nakata is the master of understated suspense: there's always a feeling of motiveless malignancy that runs like an undercurrent through his films--far more frightening than out and out shocks--and here he also practically drowns his audience in water imagery. The film is saturated; the relentless dripping in the apartment, the constant rain outside and the deliberately washed-out photography make any colour, such as the yellow coat, seem incongruous and unsettling. Nakata also clears the film of unnecessary characters--this is an almost deserted Tokyo--preferring to concentrate the action on Yoshimi's rising hysteria as she struggles to understand what is happening and how to save her daughter. Granted, the special effects are somewhat unconvincing and the ending confused, but even so the result is a stylish and disquieting chiller that will do for bathtubs what Ring did for video recorders. --Kristen Bowditch
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