Dark Water

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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 cinematographer Junichiro Hayashi (Ring, 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 9/10

Arrow Video's 4K UHD upgrade of Hideo Nakata’s Dark Water presents the film in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio on a dual-layer BD-66 disc with Dolby Vision. The 2160p/24hz ultra high-definition presentation stems from a brand new 4K restoration conducted by Kadakowa Pictures.

Previously, Arrow's Blu-ray edition utilized a dated high-definition master, which, frankly, was ugly. The image was murky, washed out, and severely lacking in detail. Its milky black levels obscured shadows, a critical flaw for a film reliant on atmosphere. It resembled something from the early DVD era at best.

Thankfully, the new 4K presentation rectifies these issues and then some. Utilizing an all-new scan, purportedly from the original negative, the overall quality improvement is remarkable. While the film maintains what I suspect is a deliberate softness, the increase in detail still manages to be striking. Even the opening shot, previously flat and lifeless on Blu-ray, now reveals intricate floor textures and more nuance in the artwork hanging in the window alongside sharper-looking raindrops. Grain is present but natural, meticulously rendered through Arrow's encode. Black levels are now well-defined, showcasing improved shadow delineation and gradations thanks to HDR and Dolby Vision. Even misty and smoky scenes appear cleaner, with light blending seamlessly within them. Highlights, especially reflections off water and wet surfaces, are impressive, though brightness levels remain subdued. The film has a darker color scheme, but there are gorgeous bursts of yellow and red, like with that bag that keeps popping up.

However, the standout feature of this presentation is its filmic texture. No longer resembling a flat video presentation, it shows more depth and range. In short, it looks absolutely stunning.

Audio 8/10

The audio, again presented in DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround, and I suspect it's the same one from the previous edition, though can't say for sure. Either way, I still think it's a solid soundtrack, delivering ample range, with nice highs during some of the film's jump scares. The mix is still rather creative, making good use of the surrounds to enhance a few scares, including making it sounds as though someone is running around above the viewer. Really solid mix.

Extras 7/10

Arrow ports the supplements over from their Blu-ray edition, starting off with a trio of interviews that feature director Hideo Nakata (26 minutes), author Koji Suzuki (20 minutes), and director of photography Junichiro Hakashi (19 minutes). While these interviews provide insights into their careers and the evolution of J-Horror, there's a noticeable lack of focus on Dark Water. Instead, they delve more into the broader landscape of J-Horror, especially emphasizing Ring over other films in the genre, leaving Dark Water somewhat overshadowed.

Despite this, the interviews offer a captivating glimpse into the history of J-Horror, revealing surprising details about its rise and eventual decline.

Additionally, the package includes older supplements likely carried over from previous DVD editions. A 16-minute making-of featurette provides behind-the-scenes footage and insights into the filming process, complemented by glimpses behind the film’s water effects. Three older interviews with Hitomi Kuroki (8 minutes), Asami Mizukawa (5 minutes), and composer Shikao Suga (3 minutes) offer brief but intriguing perspectives, with Mizukawa's interview standing out due to her unique audition experience.

Rounding out the extras are promotional materials like trailers and TV spots. The first pressing also includes a booklet featuring essays by David Kalat and Michael Gingold. I do not have a copy of the booklet for the 4K edition, but my understanding is it replicates the original Blu-ray's, which I do have. Kalat's exploration of Dark Water, and J-Horror is engrossing, while Gingold's defense of the American remake adds an unexpected yet compelling argument for the film.

While the supplements provide valuable insights into the broader J-Horror phenomenon, the limited focus on Dark Water itself may disappoint some viewers and fans. Nonetheless, the exploration of J-Horror's history proves enlightening, making the features worthwhile for fans of the genre.

Closing

Nothing is new in the supplement department, but the latest 4K presentation looks outstanding.

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Directed by: Hideo Nakata
Featuring: Hitomi Kuroki
Year: 2002
Time: 101 min.
 
Series: Arrow Video
Licensor: Kadokawa Herald Pictures
Release Date: March 19 2024
MSRP: $49.95
 
4K UHD Blu-ray
1 Disc | UHD-100
1.85:1 ratio
Japanese 5.1 DTS-HD MA Surround
Subtitles: English
Region None
HDR: HDR10Dolby Vision
 
 Ghosts, Rings and Water - interview with director Hideo Nakata   Family Terrors - interview with author Koji Suzuki   Visualizing Horror - interview with cinematographer Junichiro Hayashi   Archive interview with actors Hitomi Kuroki   Archive interview with actress Asami Mizukawa   Archive interview with theme song artist Shikao Suga   Original 'making-of' documentary   Trailer   TV Spots   Illustrated collector's booklet featuring writing on the film by David Kalat and Michael Gingold