(2002, Dir. by Hideo Nakata.)
Why It's Here:
The "long-haired Japanese ghost" craze of the early 2000s took over the horror scene in the blink of an eye. Films that made an impact in the Far East, like Ringu and Ju-On, became American remakes like The Ring and The Grudge before many Americans even knew their predecessors existed. I gotta admit, I wasn't a big fan of several of these films due to their repetitive nature - sometimes it seems that if you've seen one creepy Asian woman with hair in her face, you've seen them all - but Dark Water (which would also be quickly remade into a Jennifer Connelly thriller) has always stood out to me thanks to a deep story, good acting, and a boatload of creepy images.
The Moment That Changes Everything:
First of all, since when can schools let kids play hide and seek? Is that just a Japan thing? Do I have to move to Japan now so my imaginary kids can play hide and go seek in school? I just may.
Now that that's said, Dark Water takes a game of hide and seek and makes it scary as heck, as the young girl that our story follows sees a ominous approacher from her secret location. A rain coat and a wet child have never been more effective.
It Makes a Great Double Feature With:
I'm gonna pimp my other favorite Asian horror flick here, Kairo (aka Pulse), which was also horribly remade but stands alone as an incredible effective technohorror film. It's horror on a much bigger scale - the final scenes are mind blowingly grand - and maybe I'm being racist by pairing it up with another Japanese horror flick (couldn't I have just said some American ghost/child/mother tale like The Others?), but oh well. If you want the best modern horror that Japan has to offer, I say you go with Dark Water and Kairo.
What It Means To Me:
I was barely 20 when The Ring happened to America, and - thanks to this gosh darn internet thing that opens up possibilities that have no end - learning about the horrors of Japan was my first real foray into horror from other continents. I saw a lot of decent J-horrors before I finally fell in love with Dark Water, but it inspired me to dig even deeper into horror from new sources and places. That's kind of a big deal for a horror nerd like me.