Last night, watched the original Japanese version of Dark Water. Sadly it was dubbed instead of subtitled, which always makes me nuts, but I noted some definite departures from it in the American version. A big one was the setting, the apartment building didn't seem quite as damp, cramped and bad 70's architecture horrifying. The American version definitely had more building up creepy scenes, the school bathroom, the laundry room, but the Japanese had the best single scare moment near the end --enough to freeze me in my chair and make my knees go numb--even though I knew exactly what was coming. The dead girl herself is much creepier in general in this version, largely because she wears a raincoat and has a blurry face. And once again, the creepy ominous Hello Kitty bag. What was missing in this version though was the detail in the breakdown of the mother, which Jennifer Conelly did really well with in the American version--the migraines, the paranoia, the unraveling. And there was more texture and depth to the parent/child issues of abandonment and neglect. When I first saw the US version, I was dissappointed with the ending, always wanting the badness to be defeated, even when it's a sort of ambiguous badness. This is why I got angry watching The Grudge when SMG (Sarah Michelle Gellar, for you non-Buffy freaks) didn't just kick that dead woman's ass.
That whole ambiguous evil thing is interesting, though. In all these re-makes, and some other Asian (mostly Japanese) horror movies, it IS always ambiguous. Take The Ring. Yes, an evil little girl. But her father was a tyrant and her mother dumped her in a well. The Grudge. Yes, she kills everyone who sets foot in the house, but she was murdered by an abusive husband. There was another one I watched, Tale of Two Sisters, where the girls were murdered by their step-mother if I remember correctly. This is not Texas Chainsaw style right and wrong, black and white. Even in Dark Water, both versions, but moreso the American since she wasn't as creepy, you definitely have empathy for the little girl.
Which perhaps all goes back to the resurrected dead girl a while back. I've heard a statistic somewhere that 80% of all ghost stories involve a woman who was wronged in some way, or had something bad happen to her. Much more often women doing the haunting than the men.