Saturday, August 15, 2009

Dark Water, by Koji Suzuki

(hb; 1996, 2004: story anthology; translated by Glynne Walley)

Overall review:

Good anthology by a great writer. Suzuki's writing possesses an astute clarity, strong characters, a clear theme (in this case, water/emotion) and occasional moments of true spine-chill. A few of the stories, in a lesser writer's hands, would feel half-baked; however, since it's Suzuki I'm writing about. . .

It's not as good as Birthday, whose stories are more tightly interconnected.

Review, story by story:

1.) "Prologue": A grandmother (Kayo) takes her granddaughter, Yuko, on walks around a Tokyo Bay shoreline, telling her fantastic tales about the junk they find underfoot. Interesting, good -- clearly part of an anthology wrap-around story.

2.) "Floating Water": An anxiety-ridden single mother (Yoshimi Matsubara) moves into an old, largely-abandoned apartment building with her ten-year old daughter (Ikuko), only to discover there's something weird about the quality of the water and something disturbing about the water tank on the roof. Creepy, atmospheric tale. J-horror fans won't find the finish surprising, but it's still gripping.

This story has been filmed twiced.

The first movie, titled Dark Water, was released in Japan on January 19, 2002. Hitomi Kuroki played Yoshimi Matsubara. Rio Kanno played Ikuko Matsubara. Asami Mizukawa played Ikuko Hamada. Fumiyo Kohinata played Kunio Hamada. Hideo Nakata directed and co-scripted (he was uncredited for the latter), along with co-scriptors Yoshihiro Nakamura and Ken'ichi Suzuki. (Hideo Nakata, among his other cinematic efforts, also directed Ringu, Ringu 2, The Ring Two, and is set to direct the 2011 film The Ring Three.)

The American remake, released stateside on July 8, 2005, was scripted by Rafael Ichise. It was directed by Walter Salles.

Jennifer Connelly played Dahlia Williams (American stand-in for Yoshimi Matsubara). John C. Reilly played Mr. Murray. Tim Roth played Jeff Platzer. Dougray Scott plays Kyle Williams. Pete Postlethwaite played Veek.

3.) "Solitary Isle": A school teacher (Kensuke Suehiro), part of a botannical survey team on a close-to-mainland island (Battery No. 6), confronts the physical proof of a friend's decade-old tale. Interesting, solid story.

George Romero is set to script and direct the resulting film, which, thus far, has no scheduled release date.

4.) "The Hold": An abusive fisherman (Hiroyuki Inagaki) searches for his missing wife. Predictable in some parts, author Suzuki's relatable characters, able writing and twisty finish render its semi-predictability a minor issue.

5.) "Dream Cruise": Masayuki Enoyoshi, a mild-mannered man, gets trapped on a mysteriously stalled boat with a pyramid-scheming couple in Tokyo Bay. Once again, author Suzuki shows how every day items can cause spine-shivery effect in a reader. Spooky, darkly funny story.

This story became source material for a Masters of Horror cable episode. Co-scripted by Naoya Takayama and episode director Norio Tsuruta (who also directed Ring 0: Birthday), it aired stateside on Showtime on February 2, 2007.

Daniel Gillies played Jack Miller (cinematic stand-in for Masayuki Enoyoshi). Yoshino Kimura played Yuri Saito. Miho Ninagawa played Naomi Saito. Ryo Ishibashi played Eiji Saito.

6.) "Adrift":A seaman (Kazuo Shiraishi) navigates an abandoned-at-sea yacht back to port. Shades of H.P. Lovecraft and strange ghosts permeate this piece, with an über-creepy, chilling exit-line.

7.) "Watercolors": A discotheque-turned-theater becomes the site of an artsy play. Quirky, briefly chilling piece.

8.) "Forest Under The Sea": Two spelunkers (Fumihiko Sugiyawa, Sakakibara) explore a flooded newly-discovered cave. Solid, non-supernatural story.

9.) "Epilogue": A seventy-two year old grandmother (Kayo, first seen in "Prologue") finds an interesting, sealed-in-plastic letter during one of her morning walks along the shores of Cape Cannon. Good, non-supernatural, anthology end-cap piece.

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