Tom Humberstone


horror month - day 7

Dark Water (2002)

I remember the first time I watched Ringu. My housemates were out, the weather was suitably grim, and I'd recorded the film off TV onto a blank tape. I didn't know what the plot was. When the movie finished, my phone rang. It was pretty terrifying. It was perfect.

Dark Water, from the same director - Hideo Nakata - and from source material from the author - Koji Suzuki - uses familiar techniques to get it's scares. There's a constant pervading tension and creeping dread that makes every environment feel unwelcoming. Nakata is a master of atmosphere. There are so many beautiful shots in this film and the green-blue-yellow cinematography helps make everything feel alien and oppressive.

Quick summary: A divorcee in the midst of a custody battle for her daughter, moves into a cheap apartment. But there's only a bloody water leak which may or may not be related to a ghostly presence!

I love a good ghost story. While the plot's pretty slight and easy to predict (perhaps betraying it's origin as a short story) I found this compelling and very satisfying. I cared about the characters and felt they (and I) had something to lose, which helped make the disquieting pace and direction one hundred per cent more effective than any big scares. It's a very melancholy film. Dealing with divorce, single-parenthood, mental illness, loneliness and abandonment. Thematically, it feels very similar to The Babadook.

I also watched:

Shutter (2004)

Quick summary: College photography students accidentally run someone over and then promptly scarper. But oh-oh - all their photos have weird smudges and ghostly images on them...

This was alright. Some really memorable and creepy imagery regarding stairs and shoulders. And filmmakers Banjong Pisanthanakun and Parkpoom Wongpoom move the camera around with a Scorsese-like energy. But I couldn't shake the feeling it felt more like a dumb, if serviceable, American horror where college kids get picked off one by one. That's unfair to Shutter - it has a little more going on than that, and the spirit photography stuff is fun.

Tonight: Probably going to stick with the water theme a bit longer and give Lake Mungo (2008) and The Canal (2014) a try.