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When it comes to horror movies I have to admit that I'm pretty picky about what I want to watch. I've never gotten into the whole slasher flick thing and have always preferred a more subtle or psychological scare. Having loved the Ring I found myself wanting to check out the original Japanese version Ringu and liked that one even more so.
Following off of the success of Ringu and Ringu 2, Hideo Nakata and Koji Suzuki teamed up again for Dark Water back in 2002. Recently you've heard about the American remake for Dark Water featuring Jennifer Connelly. Sure I haven't had a chance to catch the American release of the film yet, but considering how much I loved Ringu I figured I'd give the Japanese version a shot first.
Because of the extra slower pace of this film, there are few moments where you will have to jump out of your seat; instead you'll have more of a creeped out sensation rather than terror. Dark Water builds on a growing fear and ultimately the movie climaxes in an unpredictable fashion that will add to the creep out factor. The premise of the dead coming back to torment the living may not be anything new, but the way the tale is told in this movie is certainly unique and reminiscent of Nakata's work.
Let's face it, divorce is hell for kids and unfortunately in today's society it happens more often than it should. For 6 year old Ikuko Matsubara being caught in the middle of her parent's separation is taking its toll on not only her, but her mother as well. While Yoshimi is in a difficult custody battle for her daughter, she's also searching for a new place for them to live.
Eventually they settle on a run down apartment complex that has more wrong with it than a lazy manager and bad wallpaper. Yoshimi's ceiling has a growing wet spot on it that is leaking into her bedroom, which is a little strange at first but when you realize that she's not on the top floor the leaky roof scenario isn't an excuse. Not only is there some dripping water and some foul tasting brew coming from the taps, but the visage of a young girl in a yellow raincoat is constantly haunting Yoshimi. Several supernatural events keep occurring in slow succession of each other and that builds up the tension in the film to a boiling point. As the story progresses it does become confusing as things are never really revealed or explained until near the end. This only adds to the mystery of the ghostly girl and what's going on at the apartment building.
As I said earlier, I haven't seen the American version of Dark Water yet, but the Japanese release is marvelously acted. Hitomi Kuroki is wonderful as the terrified and paranoid Yoshimi and handles the portrayal of a frightened divorcee believably. She has a real chemistry with Rio Kanna who plays her daughter and you get a real sense that the two care about each other. The rest of the support cast adds the perfect amount of skepticism and air of mystery that Dark Water has.
While the story is definitely slower in pace than many other horror films, the visual style is definitely a major part of the telling of the tale. Focusing on the water in the way that it does makes even a simple task like brushing teeth raise the hairs on the back of your neck. Nakata has turned such a simple thing into a menacing creature that is powerful and unpredictable.
One subtle inference that has a vibe throughout the movie is that these incidents tie into the divorce that the Matsubara family is going through. We see how love, greed and sacrifice are played out and what they do to a family (with a supernatural backdrop that is). The divorce story ties into the horror, but only minutely so and even though its there it becomes lost during the course of the movie.
Overall I really liked Dark Water and it's one of the better more deliberately paced horror films I have seen in a while. I can't speak for the American version, but the Japanese release definitely deserves some attention for any fan of Asian horror.
The region 1 release for Dark Water features a 16:9 anamorphic widescreen presentation and the transfer is beautiful. The image remains crisp and even though there is a slight layer of grain in most scenes, the video quality is very good. In an attempt to increase the mood of the film several colors and portions of the environment are heavily saturated with washed out colors and grays. This definitely adds to the visual style of the movie and adds to the tension you'll feel while watching it.
This release by ADV features two separate audio tracks to listen to and each are presented in 5.1. The Japanese track has standard English subtitles and the English audio features a tolerable dubbing (although I prefer the original language). The audio quality is very good with decent use of directional sound, though much of what you hear comes from the front channel.
I do have to say though that the sound direction of Nakata is brilliant with a particular noise, song or note chiming in at the right moments for the most dramatic effect. In many horror movies the soundtrack works against the film, but that's not the case here at all. A good speaker set up will do wonders to give you the creeps.
I was hoping that since Dark Water was going to be released by A.D.V. that we'd at least get something in the way of special features. Unfortunately that's not the case and even though this edition coincides with the release of the American version all we see are previews for some other movies being releases by A.D.V and the Japanese trailer for Dark Water.
Fans of Asian horror movies will absolutely love the gritty world of Dark Water and if you don't have a region free DVD player you should definitely check this one out. The pacing is slower than other movies, but the payoff at the end is well worth the ride. This release features some nice visual and audio quality, although as far as options and extras go it's as barebones as it gets.
If you've seen the American version of the movie you'll probably be interested to see the original material that inspired it. Either way Dark Water is a creepy tale that will stick with you long after you watch it. Highly Recommended