Dark Water

ADV Films, $19.98.

IN THE FUTURE, all Hollywood horror flicks will be based on Japanese originals. The American remakes The Ring and The Grudge weren't great, but they sure were profitable. (You basically need a female in jeopardy, a creepy house, and little in the way of CGI effects.) The same will probably be true of the Jennifer Connelly redo of Hideo Nakata's 2002 Dark Water, not so coincidentally released on DVD earlier this summer. Like the Japanese Ringu series, it's based on a novel by Koji Suzuki, a central player in the whole J-horror movement.

The original Dark Water isn't much better or worse than the remake (still in theaters), but it's a good primer on J-horror fundamentals. Single mother Yoshimi gradually goes bonkers in the dripping new apartment she shares with her young daughter, losing herself in the traumas of the past and the fate of a drowned ghost girl who haunts their building. J-horror requires little plot and even less dialogue; it makes you realize how much the average American slasher flick is glutted with teen dialogue and gratuitous screaming. Nakata respects silence—the dreadful absence of aural cues Yoshimi receives when she can't find her daughter; the spectral ghost girl who never speaks; the gradual incursion of water itself, where a barely audible gurgling sound becomes ominous rather than peaceful.

J-horror is also rooted in the mundane reality of urban lives; it doesn't require a road trip to a weird locale filled with cannibalistic hillbillies. The violence—sensory violence—of Dark Water comes from dripping taps and overflowing bathtubs. Nakata locates things that are profoundly strange within the ordinary; his horror is often domestic horror, taking place in kitchens and bathrooms rather than cellars where a psycho lurks beneath the stairs. For this reason, J-horror is cheap and effective to make—and to remake.

MORE RECENT DVD releases include the worthwhile Cuban refugee documentary Balseros; the vintage British TV comedy shows At Last the 1948 Show and Do Not Adjust Your Set (with John Cleese and other future Pythons); the Hungarian charmer Hukkle; and Mohsen Makhmalbaf's beautiful Gabbeh. Oliver Stone provides a commentary for his director's cut of Alexander. The Thin Man and its five William Powell–Myrna Loy sequels arrive as a box set. There's also a collection of Errol Morris' First Person series, in addition to his excellent The Thin Blue Line. Bruno Ganz makes a fitting Hitler in Downfall, and Ashton Kutcher stinks up the screen in Guess Who.


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