Dark Water (15)
Time Out saysFrom the director of the original Japanese Ring comes, if anything, an even richer tale of everyday terror, based on the novel by Koji Suzuki. In the midst of a messy divorce which threatens a custody battle, Yoshimi (Kuroki) moves her small daughter Ikuku (Kanno) into a dump of an apartment block which is all she can afford. Trying to start a new life on her own is stressful enough, but she could hardly have anticipated the wet patch on the ceiling spreading alarmingly, very strange bumps and noises from upstairs, and much, much worse. Unfolding events defy rational explanation, but if Yoshimi comes across as too flaky, she risks losing her child to the ongoing legal proceedings. Hideo Nakata works wonders from this admittedly slim outline. While Hollywood tools efficient, teen-oriented scare machines, here is character and atmosphere shaped in harmony. The mildewed palette, stomach-spooking sound design and slowly escalating supernatural implications aren't just deployed to exploit the heroine's frailties - they're an expression of damaged emotional bonds in a tough, uncaring world and the follow through they precipitate in realms beyond. Dark Water stands as a masterclass in direction, not just for the precise control of tension, release and implacably tightening unease, but for the insistence with which it plumbs our deepest feelings, drawing on a child's fear of abandonment and a parent's dread of loss yet never cheapening them for the sake of a shock moment. All of which pays dividends in an extraordinary finale that's a marvel of both nerve-shredding suspense and heartbreaking compassion. It'll leave you wrung out, terrified, tearful, but, most of all, elated to have seen a great horror film worthy of the description.