Archive for the ‘Dark Water (2002)’ Category

blu-ray-cover

Distributor: Arrow Video

Release Date: October 11, 2016

Region: Region Free

Length: 01:41:05

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4 AVC Video)

Main Audio: 5.1 Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio (3584 kbps / 48 kHz / 24-bit)

Subtitles: English

Ratio: 1.85:1

Bitrate: 34.94 Mbps

Notes: This title was previously released on DVD but this is the film’s Blu-ray debut in North America.

title

“The remake thing did not happen just for Asian horror remakes, Hitchcock remade [one of] his own British thrillers. Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai and Yojimbo were well re-made—or cleverly adapted. In that sense, I am honored that three of my films, Jyoyu-rei, Ringu, and Dark Water were re-made. At the same time, I did have mixed feelings like, “Why can’t my Japanese original films [sic] be released in the US first?” –Hideo Nakata (HorrorTalk.com, April 29, 2011)

Personally, it is difficult not to agree with Nakata—especially considering the fact that his originals work quite well on their own. This is especially true of Dark Water (Honogurai mizu no soko kara). Nakata’s original film towers high above the re-make which is barely even remembered by audiences today. It is merely a footnote in J-Horror history (and Hollywood’s J-Horror remake craze). Actually, it wouldn’t be completely inappropriate to give Nakata the lion’s share of the credit for ushering J-Horror into America’s collective consciousness. In any case, it was after terrifying worldwide audiences with the blockbuster classic Ringu and its sequel that the director returned to the genre with Dark Water—another highly atmospheric tale of the supernatural. It became yet another critically acclaimed hit. However, it did not earn the same level of worldwide praise. David Kalat wrote of this in the limited edition booklet included in this Arrow release:

“Good as it is—brilliant, heart-aching, and anguished—by 2002, Dark Water was simply one of many. Ring [Ringu] had changed the world. And in the world that it had changed, it was no longer possible for one lone movie to stand out so distinctively. J-Horror had successfully littered the world with numberless copies of itself.” – David Kalat (Dead Wet Girls, Liner Essay, 2016)

Even a surface level examination will uncover many obvious connections to Ringu. In addition to the fact that Hideo Nakata was the primary creative force behind both projects, Dark Water was based upon “Fuyu suri mizu” (“Floating Waters”) which was a short story by Koji Suzuki (who had written the novel that Ringu was based upon). The film and was also beautifully shot by Jun’ichirô Hayashi—the same cinematographer who shot Ringu (not to mention Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Pulse). However, Dark Water is an entirely different kind of thriller.

The story 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. Dark Water successfully merges spine-tingling tension with a family’s heart-wrenching emotional struggle. The result is a subtly unsettling Japanese horror film that mixes psychological terror with the supernatural in interesting ways.

SS01.jpg

The Presentation:

4.5 of 5 Stars

Arrow Video houses their Blu-ray and DVD discs in a sturdy clear Blu-ray case with reversible film-related artwork. There is a newly commissioned Manga-book style cover by Peter Strain that actually surpasses the film’s original one-sheet (this is rare). This is one of Arrow’s best designs but it is nice that Arrow has also offered fans the opportunity to utilize alternative artwork that makes use of one of the film’s original one-sheet design. This reviewer usually opts to flip the sleeve to feature the one sheet art, but this is a rare exception. There is also an attractive booklet that includes an interesting essay 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 Michael Gingold. These essays are enhanced with a number of production stills.

[Note: The aforementioned booklet is only included with the first pressing of this particular release.]

menu

The animated menus utilize footage from the film and music from the score. They are reasonably attractive and easy to navigate.

SS02.jpg

Picture Quality:

3 of 5 Stars

Dark Water is presented in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio… The high-definition master was made available by Kadokawa Pictures. Additional restoration work was performed at Deluxe Restoration, London to remove dirt and debris and improve overall picture stability.” –Liner Notes

It is impossible to know to what extent the film has been cleaned up but it must be said that Arrow’s “restored” transfer looks less than completely satisfying. It is difficult to judge if the issues are due to inadequacies in the original source print or if they are the result of an older high definition transfer that was never meant for Blu-ray release. Detail is limited and less striking than one expects from Arrow but the relatively high bitrate used for the image transfer has kept distracting compression anomalies at bay.

SS03.jpg

Sound Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

The disc’s robust 5.1 Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio mix showcases the film’s impressive yet understated sound design masterfully without showing its seams and Kawai’s score is given not only room to breathe but space to play with the viewer’s mind. It is quite difficult for this English-speaking viewer to testify about the clarity of the Japanese dialogue but it should be said that it is well mixed and prioritized. The overall experience of this solid sound transfer is most effective.

SS04.jpg

Special Features:

3.5 of 5 Stars

Arrow has provided over 1 hour and 38 minutes of video based supplemental material here for fans of the film to enjoy and although the merit of these short programs vary, each is a welcome addition to the disc. Upon final analysis, one feels that the disc might not live up to some of Arrow’s other releases but this might be because they have set the mark so high in the past. In any case, there isn’t any doubt that the disc offers more than most Blu-rays.

Hideo Nakata: Ghosts, Rings, and Water – (26:03)

Those initially reluctant to indulge in Hideo Nakata’s interview because it is in Japanese will be pleasantly surprised. While watching an interview in a foreign language can be more challenging than watching an image driven film, Nakata is consistently engaging as he speaks about his career as a film director, working on Ringu and Dark Water, and his feelings about the horror genre in general.

Koji Suzuki: Family Terrors – (20:20)

Koji Suzuki’s interview is equally engaging. Japan’s “preeminent horror novelist” discusses his writing career and how he became known as a horror author. He also talks at length about his work with Hideo Nakata on both Ringu and Dark Water. This interview should thrill fans of either one of these films (and fans of Suzuki’s writing).

Junichiro Hayashi: Visualizing Horror – (19:16)

Also engaging—though admittedly to a lesser degree—is this interview with Junichiro Hayashi about his career as a cinematography, the methodology of being a cinematographer in Japan, his collaboration with Hideo Nakata, and his aversion to horror films. There is quite a bit of good information here, and it is well worth the viewer’s effort.

The Making of Dark Water – (15:51)

The strongest of the archival supplements is this “making of” featurette. It consists of behind the scenes production footage and forgoes the usual surface level interviews that usually accompanies such footage. The result is an objective glimpse behind the curtain that should please fans of the film and anyone interested in filmmaking in general.

Interview with Hitomi Kuroki – (08:00)

This archival interview with Hitomi Kuroki (who portrayed Yoshimi Matsubara) barely manages to go beyond the usual EPK commentary that one expects from such interviews but she does manage to divulge some interesting information here. In any case, it is nice to have the interview included on the disc.

Archival Interview with Asami Mizukawa – (04:39)

The most interesting aspect of this archival interview is Asami Mizukawa’s audition footage. The actual interview is somewhat standard EPK material but it is an interesting artifact nonetheless.

Archival Interview with Shikao Suga – (02:55)

Shikao Suga discusses the pop song he wrote for the film’s final credits. This is standard EPK material and is obviously geared towards promoting one’s interest in seeing the film. Interestingly, the song discussed here feels oddly out of place in the film. One is thankful that it is only featured in the end credits.

Theatrical Trailer – (01:13)

For the most part, this Japanese theatrical trailer isn’t much different than those made for most domestic horror films. Unfortunately, the inappropriate pop song (by Shikao Suga) featured in the opening moments of the trailer doesn’t establish the appropriate mood for what is about to follow. The rest of the trailer plays out as anyone might expect and showcases a few of the film’s creepy moments. Having said this, one cannot say that the result does the film justice. However, it is nice to have such marketing materials included.

Theatrical Teaser – (00:37)

The teaser trailer is a slight improvement over the previous trailer and features much of the same footage.

TV Spots – (00:50)

Some of these TV Spots also include Shikao Suga’s inappropriate pop song and suffer from its inclusion, but one cannot say that seeing these promos isn’t interesting.

ss05

Final Words:

Fans of J-Horror will no doubt wish to indulge in this terrific release of one of this subgenre’s seminal works. In many ways, the simple premise allows for a more consistent tone than Ringu enjoyed. It is certainly less convoluted than that earlier effort and the relative simplicity allows for a more consistent tone.

Review by: Devon Powell