Being a hardcore horror fan, it is rare that a film will scare me. Most movies try their hardest, but most fail. However, it only takes a good Japanese horror film to raise the goosebumps and I remember Dark Water being one film that gave me a fair share of the bumps. Of course, now that I’ve gone back to it years later with Arrow Video’s Blu-ray release, the scares aren’t as effective, but there are moments where it still managed to creep me out. Arrow Video has released a Blu-ray with plenty of features, but the video quality just doesn’t cut it.
DISCS: 2 (1 Blu-ray, 1 DVD)
RUN-TIME: 101 min
ASPECT RATIO: 1.85:1
AUDIO: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
PRODUCTION DATE: 2002
RELEASE DATE: Oct 11, 2016
After terrifying audiences worldwide with the blockbuster J-horror classic Ring and its sequel, director Hideo Nakata returned to the genre for Dark Water, another highly atmospheric, and critically acclaimed, tale of the supernatural which took the common theme of the “dead wet girl” to new heights of suspense and drama. Based upon on a short story by Ring author Koji Suzuki, Dark Water follows Yoshimi, a single mother struggling to win sole custody of her only child, Ikuko. When they move into a new home within a dilapidated and long-forgotten apartment complex, Yoshimi begins to experience startling visions and unexplainable sounds, calling her mental well-being into question, and endangering not only her custody of Ikuko, but perhaps their lives as well. Beautifully shot by the same cinematographer as Ring and Pulse, and featuring an especially unnerving sound design, Dark Water successfully merges spine-tingling tension with a family’s heart-wrenching emotional struggle, creating one of the very finest and most unsettling contemporary Japanese horror films.
As Yoshimi Matsubara ( Hitomi Kuroki) fights to keep custody of her child, she is also busy trying to find a place to live and work. She finally ends up living in an apartment building with her daughter (Rio Kanno in an amazing performance), but the place immediately feels creepy and rundown. It doesn’t take long for water to start dripping from the ceiling, hinting at worse things to come than just water damage. As Yoshimi struggles to keep things together, she starts seeing a little girl in a yellow rain slicker running around the building but disappearing before she can get close enough.
Things come to a head when her daughter seems to have befriended an invisible person, who might possibly be a ghost (it is). Yoshimi must hurry to solve the mystery of the little girl or else she may lose her daughter forever.
The plot for Dark Water comes across as simply a ghost story with a mix of murder mystery running through its watery veins. If this is your first time seeing Dark Water, be prepared to be gripped by the mystery, however, seeing it for the second time, some of the oomph of the mystery evaporates quickly. Of course, that can be said for most films that involve a plot that centers around a murder, so I can’t exactly fault the movie on that.
What still worked in Dark Water for me was the ending, which definitely still gave me chills, with several creepy moments rearing their ghostly head. Also, the ending leaves the viewer with a soul-crushing conclusion that most films wouldn’t dare go for.
Dark Water’s viewing experience is best the first time around, going in with no idea of what to expect. Nevertheless, seeing it again, still managed to give me some spooks.
Unfortunately, Arrow Video failed to impress me completely with this release. Whatever source that Arrow Video used had some serious issues and no matter how much cleaning up, it just does not come across as Blu-ray worthy. Nevertheless, there are moments where the video exceeds expectations and the bad parts are never enough to distract from your overall viewing experience.
The audio thankfully fairs much better, with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track filling your speakers with creepy dripping and the pattering of rain and screams.
As for the special features, we have several interviews to check out. There is a nice, informative 26 minute sit down with Director Hideo Nakata, who goes through some of his career hits. Also included is a 20-minute interview with Author Koji Suzuki, writer of the original Dark Water short story. The final newly shot feature is with the director of photography, Junichiro Hayashi. Rounding it all out is archival features, interviews and trailers.
- High Definition digital transfer
- High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
- Original 5.1 audio (DTS-HD on the Blu-ray)
- Brand new interview with director Hideo Nakata
- Brand new interview with novelist Koji Suzuki
- Brand new interview with cinematographer Junichiro Hayashi
- Archive interview with actress Asami Mizukawa
- Original ‘Making of’ documentary
- Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Peter Strain
- First pressing only: illustrated collector’s booklet containing new writing by David Kalat, author of J-Horror: The Definitive Guide to The Ring, The Grudge and Beyond, and an examination of the American remake by writer and editor Michael Gingold
Arrow Video’s Dark Water Blu-ray provides fans with a somewhat solid Blu, with the biggest issue being the transfer. As for the film itself, it will give first-time viewers the chills for sure. If you have seen the movie several times before, it might be a hard sell on picking up the Blu, for the fans that need to own it, this Blu-ray is it.