Blu-ray Review: Dark Water

A great horror movie is rooted in a fear that the people we love can transform into monsters that we must survive. In the case of Dark Water, after spending years as a stay-at-home parent Yoshimi (47 Ronin‘s Hitomi Kuroki) finds herself in the middle of a nasty and unexpected divorce. Adding to the stress is that she has to take care of her daughter. Her husband is fighting her for custody. She needs an apartment and a job in order to take care of Ikuko (Noroi: The Curse‘s Rio Kanno). Without a job, Yoshimi is reduced to taking an apartment in a rather dilapidated building. If she’s not haunted by enough ghosts of the past and fears of the present, there just might be a supernatural force lurking inside waterspots in the ceiling.

The water spots seem to get worse and worse. The management of the apartment building don’t want to do a thing. It makes no sense since there’s an apartment above hers so it’s not a roof leak. Things get more tense as the nastiness of the divorce grow. The wife fears that the husband is doing little things in order to doubt her sanity. Her ability to question reality quickly comes into play. She begins to catch glimpses of a little girl who might be the same one that vanished a while back. The same girl is also turning into her daughter’s new imaginary best friend. Is this for real? Can she keep things together long enough to survive her divorce and raise her daughter?

There is a raw honesty to the pressures on Yoshimi in the opening of the film. This is the unfortunate burden that falls on a stay-at-home parent when the breadwinner decides they want a divorce. You really want to ball up and emotionally vent, but at the same time, you have a small child who needs a parent that’s going to make sure they’re protected. A parent has to keep it all together no matter what their ex-spouse throws at them to get an upperhand in divorce court. The dark and decaying nature of the apartment adds to the pressure.

Director Hideo Nakata had already become a sensation with the VCR nightmare Ringu (The Ring as it was remade in America). While Dark Water is also a supernatural ghost story in present day Japan, it’s a different kinda of scare. He already had a nightmare on the screen before the missing girl enters the story. This makes things more intense for the characters instead of undercutting the human story. The film was remade with Jennifer Connelly (Waking the Dead). The Americanization didn’t have nearly half of the gravity and a finale that was Hollywood spooky. Don’t let you bias against the remake distract you from seeing the original.

The videos is 1.85:1 anamorphic. The transfer brings out the dank and cheap lighting scheme found in the apartment. The audio is DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 in Japanese. The rain effects come from all around the speakers. The movie is subtitled in English.

DVD has all features of the Blu-ray.

Hideo Nakata: Ghosts, Rings, and Water (26:02) allows the director to discuss his career from working as an assistant director to taking the helm on Ringu. All of the bonus features are in Japanese with English subtitles.

Koji Suzuki: Family Terror (20:19) has the novelist mostly talking about his novel being turned into Ringu. There is some talk of his short story that was the basis for Dark Water.

Junichiro Hayashi: Visualizing Terror (19:15) permits the cinematographer to talk about how Suspiria influenced his work on Dark Water.

‘Making of’ (15:48) deals with how the crew made artificial rain.

Actress Hitomi Kuroki (7:58) speaks of the script being part of what made her want the role.

Asami Mizuakawa (4:37) interviews the actress who played Ikuko as a teenager.

Shikao Suga (2:53) speaks of composing the film’s themes.

Promo Materials features Theatrical Trailer (1:13), Teaser (0:38), and TV spots (0:50).

Arrow Video presents Dark Water. Directed by: Hideo Nakata. Screenplay by: Yoshihiro Nakamura & Kenichi Suzuki. Starring: Hitomi Kuroki, Rio Kanno, Mirei Oguchi, Asami Mizukawa, Fumiyo Kohinata. Running Time: 101 minutes. Rated: PG-13. Released: October 11, 2016.

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