Director: Hideo Nakata
Cast: Hitomi Kuroki, Rio Kanno, Mirei Oguchi
Reviewed by Brian M. Sammons
Dark Water was one of the earlier horror invaders from the East that rode the wave of J-horror love into North America. And it was good. So years later it was, of course, remade by American filmmakers as an okay — but far less spooky and powerful — version in 2005. And then in 2013, a part of this art was sadly imitated by life in the weird and still unsolved case of the mysterious death of Elisa Lam. Go ahead and Google it — it’s an oddly scary story. But as for this original, while it never got the credit on this side of the ocean as Ringu or Ju-on did, it was every bit as frightening as those, and in some way, was even more so. And now, thanks to Arrow Video, the original soggy spookfest is now out on Blu-ray, looking amazing and loaded with extras. If you have already seen this movie, then chances are you like it, and you’ll want to get this edition since it’s the best around. But if you’ve never seen it, then keep on reading, and let’s see if I can convince you to take the plunge. Ah, ah, you see what I did there?
Dark Water tells the story of a young woman in the middle of a divorce who moves herself and her very young daughter into a new apartment to start a new life. It’s not long before mother and daughter start getting annoyed by the leak above their heads as dark water stains begin to spread and drip, and the building’s janitor is in no hurry to fix it. So mom takes matters into her own hands and goes to the apartment above hers, only to find it locked. Strange things begin to happen, like a child’s red backpack continually appearing, no matter how many time mom throws it away or tries to hide it from her daughter. Hair starts coming out of the water taps, and because this is a J-horror movie, it’s not too long before the little girl with dark hair over her face starts to show up. But this girl is the same age as her daughter, and she has a sad story she’s going to tell, no matter what. Creepy things continue to mount as the mystery behind the dark water drips slowly and carefully unfolds.
Directed by Hideo Nakata, who gave us the amazing Ringu movie (which, of course, would be remade in the US as The Ring), this film has as much haunting beauty as the better known Ringu, and actually eclipses it in a few areas. With its stripped down cast of characters and simpler story, it is a more personal tale of loss and is far sadder for it. There is a slow creeping (or should that be seeping?) dread here that is wonderful. This movie is truly chilly and almost makes you feel the damp that saturates the film.
As for the extras included in this Blu-ray DVD two disc set. There is an interview with director Hideo Nakata that runs 26 minutes. There is an interview with Koji Suzuki, one of Japan’s top horror authors, who did the short story Dark Water was based off of, and this runs for over 20 minutes. There is also an interview with cinematographer Junichiro Hayshi about his work on this movie, and his frequent collaborations with director Nakata, and that runs for 19 minutes. There is an archive featurette (read as: shot when the movie was made back in 2002) with actress Hitomi Kuroki that’s 8 minutes long, another one with actress Asami Mizukawa that’s over 4 and a half minutes, and a third vintage interview with composer Shikao Suga about his work on creating the theme song for Dark Water that’s about 3 minutes in length. In addition, there is a making-of featurette that runs about 16 minutes, a trailer, a teaser, and some TV spots. For a foreign, non-English speaking film (which usual gets the shaft in the special features department when released in the US), Arrow Video added quite the collection of goodies and that should be commended.
Dark Water is a great, truly frightening horror movie, and this new edition is the version of it that does it best. So yeah, this is a no-brainer and a must have. Consider it highly recommended.