What exactly attracts us to watch films about dark haired prepubescent ghosts with an affinity for rings, water, and death? The answers are infinite. One is that in the apex of polars, when innocence and basal terror mix, new narratives become available. Ikuko’s rage represents a type of meta-sorrow, where the only thing sadder than what has trapped her in limbo is the fact that she was never given the chance to develop the life skills that most adults learn in order to move on. Her inability to understand humanity, becoming that which represents the universal blunders of mankind itself.
So like always with the world’s best horror films, labels are dismissed, and no element apart from water is required to share observations. Dark Water does not have to rate on the S&M spectrum to tell its story, and if anything, mocks any that do by its sheer existence. It is a film that is not about grooming you with butcher-porn, but is more about a singular familial relationship, showing us that analogue fear will always overpower the digital.
Dark Water works as well as a silent film about the connection between loss and the rain, as it actually does by creating a filmic poem about the physical and spectral worlds that converge. Although, between the Japanese Dark Water (2002), and its American replication in 2005, the “Sorry, can you say that again? In English this time? I’m not from here…” line does seem to have been said at some point, in regard to the unnecessary remake.
The deviant truth is that it is more interesting to witness a ‘normal’ looking person loosing their shit as compared to a tramp rolling about in the road screaming their tits off. Yet here, you are always offered the choice of believing the reports of the mother’s behavior or not: I’m not mad, it’s you! You’re all against me! And so on.
The question of ‘what the presence wants’ is one that is illuminated by the bonus materials in Arrow Videos’ re-released J-Horror classic. But of course, that term never existed when this narrative was distilled and conceptualised from our globalised-conjoined dream, J-Horror, or any of the terms used to cartoonify and bag-up more startling states of mind. Even Koji Suzuki’s original Ring novel was only branded as horror when his publisher got involved.
14 years on—a decade and a half always being a more reflective place to see into previous worlds—finds us hearing from director Hideo Tanaka: pragmatic, empathetic, and diligent as ever, Koji Suzuki: the fiction writer who expresses what all writers want to do, and Junishiro Hayashi: the director of photography.
Sat with his cigarettes and drink of choice, Hayashi encapsulates a lot of what this DVD and Blu-Ray represents in 2016. He walks us through his career and connection to Dark Water, talking about creative relationships, with charm, honesty, and candour, where watching this interview alone would be more help to a film professional hopeful than the tribes of information available elsewhere.
Koji Suzuki’s writing, as adapted for film, represents one of the hardest tasks: transforming the esoteric into the commercial. He understands the ghosts in his works, and is away from the misguided reasoning in Hollywood that forces it to regurgitate itself. It being unable to understanding more, because its circle of creativity is simply too limited.
Connectivity has turned back on itself, because the world has realised that what was being sold by mainstream cinema before has been used up. (S)he was an animal in a cage to begin with, and Dark Water is quite literally where we are, as far as new narratives in mainstream media are concerned. Yet a bizarre thing is highlighted in this triumph of art over savagery, which the small girl with dark hair also represents: the unsaid stories available when worlds are linked, that bring us new vectors of light in an otherwise satiated dream, sabotaging the idea that what we know is all there is.
Dir: Hideo Tanaka
Scr: Ken’ichi Suzuki
Cast: Hitomi Kuroki, Rio Kanno, Mirei Oguchi
Prd: Takashige Ichise
DOP: Junishiro Hayashi
Music: Kenji Kawai, Shikao Suga
Run time: 101 mins
Dark Water was re-released by Arrow Video on 10th October 2016