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Dark Water
SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.85:1 Widescreen
  • 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • Japanese DTS-HD 5.1 Surround
  • English subtitles
  • 2 Discs
FEATURES
  • 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 ĎMaking ofí documentary
  • Trailer
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Peter Strain
  • First pressing only: illustrated collectorís 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

Dark Water

Dual-Format Edition
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Hideo Nakata
2002 | 101 Minutes

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $34.95 | Series: Arrow Video
MVD Visual

Release Date: October 25, 2016
Review Date: October 27, 2016

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SYNOPSIS

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.


PICTURE

Arrow Video presents Hideo Nakataís Dark Water on Blu-ray in its original aspect ratio of about 1.85:1. The image is presented in 1080p/24hz on a dual-layer disc.

Iím at a bit of a loss with this title. Arrow can do some impressive work: anyone who can make Microwave Massacre look like a brand new film and have the presentation rival even that of recent big studio titles on Blu-ray is obviously doing something right. But that just makes this release even more puzzling. Despite being a fairly popular J-Horror title from a big Japanese studio, and only being 14 years old, Arrowís presentation for Dark Water it pains me to say, looks terrible.

The bookletís notes state that Arrow received the master from Kadokawa Pictures and are simply working from that. That ultimately explains why this presentation is weaker than what I have come to expect from Arrow, though I canít say that still makes things right. The problem with the presentation is that it looks like it was taken from an older, fairly shoddy high-def master that was only intended for DVD back in 2002 (though checking the DVD that comes with this edition, it still doesnít look strong on there, either). It looks rough. Itís a muddy, noisy, ugly looking image. Artifacts are fairly common and, with every shift or movement in the camera, shimmering effects are noticeable, which ends up causing the image to look distorted and blurry. On occasion you can also make out faint vertical lines running through the image, making a faint grid pattern. It looks like a purely digital presentation, looks fuzzy, and has little to no film-like qualities at all.

In terms of detail itís limited. Though I feel this was made with DVD in mind at the time, itís still a high-def image (if a weak one), so it still has some of the benefits. Some textures come through on the walls, both dry and soaked through with water. But most everything else looks flat, with the image generally lacking depth. Topped with that motion blur effect, it makes the experience generally frustrating

Black levels are incredibly weak, and shadow detail is severely limited. Colours are also fairly feeble for the most part themselves, though admittedly this could be the filmís intended look: it looks similar to other J-Horror films from the era at least. It has a very dull, grayish look, though some scenes that use filters pop a bit more, and there is a red bag that shows up constantly (through supernatural forces of course) that actually looks really good. So colours are probably true(ish) to the original intention. In regards to restoration work a few minor marks show up, but overall the print that was sourced for this is pretty clean.

Still, despite maybe a few strong aspects, overall its weaknesses far outweigh any strengths since the weaknesses overpower the good and come to the forefront. I have a feeling this was out of Arrowís hands, and Iím guessing they werenít allowed to get at the original materials to do their own work; if they did I have a feeling it would have turned out quite good. Unfortunately, we have what we have and itís an enormous disappointment.

5/10

All Blu-ray screen captures come from the source disc and have been shrunk from 1920x1080 to 900x506 and slightly compressed to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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AUDIO

Arrow includes a DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround track. Though dialogue can maybe be a bit one-note the track still manages to create a fairly spooky atmosphere. The filmís eerie score and subtle ambient effects fill in the environment and are sure to give some viewers the creeps. Bass is also managed fairly well, getting a bit heavier just to unsettle things a bit more. Direction is also impressive: when our hapless protagonists here ghostly footsteps coming from the apartment above them it literally sounds like someone is walking above you. Itís a nice mix and I found it to be most effective.

8/10

SUPPLEMENTS

Arrow packs on a number of supplements, including three new interviews: director Hideo Nakata (about 26-minutes), author Koji Suzuki (about 20-minutes), and director of photography Junichiro Hakashi (about 19-minutes). All three talk about their careers and give back stories on how they came into working in the horror genre, though there is very little focus on Dark Water in all three. They primarily talk about the J-Horror wave that swept Japan and eventually the States, and spend more of their time talking about Ring than any other film in the subgenre, with Dark Water getting glazed over a bit.

We get an interesting picture and history of J-Horror, though, through these three participants (and I was surprised to learn how quickly it did actually flame out just when it was really getting started), and from a film history perspective these interviews prove very worthwhile.

(There is also a rather cute ďEaster EggĒ of sorts that references Ring during Nakataís interview.)

The remaining supplements look to be hold overs from previous DVD editions (Iím guessing they were on older DVD editions anyways). A making of featurette running about 16-minutes is here. Itís above average for the type of feature it is, with the camera hovering over the filming of a select number of scenes, accompanied by a picture-in-picture window showcasing the scene that is being shot. We also get to see the execution of some of the water effects.

There are then three older interviews, one with actresses Hitomi Kuroki (about 8-minutes) and Asami Mizukawa (about 5-minutes), and composer Shikao Suga (about 3-minutes). Theyíre not terribly in-depth, the participants answering questions displayed on screen about either their roles or, in the case of Suga, writing the filmís music and song. Mizukawaís proves to be more interesting, though, as it appears she won some sort of contest to appear in the film, so we see footage from the ďauditionĒ and her reaction when she finds out she got the part. Theyíre not terribly in-depth though they still contain some comments in reference to Dark Water.

The disc then closes off with a number of promotional materials, including a trailer, a teaser trailer, and 3 TV spots.

The first pressing also includes a booklet, and as always itís a strong booklet. There is an essay written by David Cairns about this film and J-Horror, which is a great read. But, surprisingly, the best piece in the booklet is the second one written by Michael Gingold, who offers his defense of the American remake, calling it one of the stronger remakes to come out of the J-Horror period (he seems to defend most, though canít bring himself to say anything nice about the remake of Pulse).

My biggest disappointment with the supplements is I felt the material on Dark Water itself was fairly slim, with the focus more on J-Horror as a whole. I still found that focus to be of value, mind you, as itís an interesting period in horror filmmaking, but I learned more about Ring than I did about the feature film on this disc.

7/10

CLOSING

Though the supplements are focused more on J-Horror as a whole than this film specifically, I did enjoy the approach and the features. What I can't get past is the presentation. The audio is effective but the video looks rather bad, as though Arrow got stuck with a high-definition master made with only DVD in mind. I donít blame Arrow ultimately but that doesnít make it any less unfortunate as this is the only way Iím aware of for North American audiences to own the film on Blu-ray. Itís calling for a new scan and itís disappointing that Arrow was unable to create one.




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