Dark Water is one of the newest releases from our friends at Arrow Video. It is their first foray into releasing films that accompanied the Japanese horror boom of the later 90’s to early 2000’s. Thankfully, these aren’t the redheaded step child remakes American audiences were served. Atmospheric, eerie, and filled with brilliant cinematography, Dark Water, easily shows why this genre of films had such a solid pair of legs, even if the American versions were much weaker films.
Feeling more like a family drama than an outright horror film, Dark Water is the tale of Yoshimi and her 6 year old daughter, Ikuko. As Yoshimi struggles through a divorce with her husband she’s also faced with a custody battle that is sure to take its toll on Ikuko. Needing a place for the two of them to stay and very low on options Yoshimi and Ikuko end up living in a rundown apartment with a leaky ceiling. Before long, Yoshimi realizes its not just bad plumbing causing the surfaces of her apartment to be covered in dirty water.
Dark Water tells a simple story, but it is effectively eerie it it’s approach. Opting for slow burn pacing, subtle music queues, and visually tame but uncomfortable creep out moments. These traits make Dark Water a long shot from the loud and in your face horror we’ve become accustomed to in recent years. Dark Water is somewhat restrained with its scares and while it does start a bit slow it manages to stay compelling throughout with the performances of the two leads and gorgeous cinematography carrying the film.
Ostensibly a horror film, Dark Water sets forth to pull more emotions from you than just fright. By the time the credits roll, I felt I had watched something much more tragic than terrifying. This focus on real human drama over paranormal causes the story and by extension the whole film to resonate more than typical horror fare. It’s a film that may be paced uncommonly slow by today’s standards, but builds to it’s finale gracefully. Dark Water certainly earns the right to take its time by offering a quality and class to the film making often missing in American horror films.
Dark Water also doesn’t muck everything up with a silly twist ending, opting instead to stay straight forward in it’s storytelling. This works in favor of the film and I felt the strongest part was the finale and conclusion overall. When you can neatly wrap up a horror film, but still keep it satisfying and make it feel worth the audiences time you have a definite success on your hands.
The Picture (2.5/5)
I’m a little torn on this, as Dark Water is simply a hauntingly beautiful movie to look at. Every frame could be an eerie or uncomfortable painting. The problem here is the transfer presented on the disc by Arrow Video. They forgo a new 2K or 4K transfer like other recent Arrow Video releases, and unfortunately opt instead to use an already available HD master from Kadokawa Pictures with additional restoration performed by Deluxe in London.
While nothing presented on the screen looks offensively bad, something does look incredibly off about the films presentation. The image looks soft and detail is severely lacking, which is unfortunate when the film is shot so gorgeously. The grain can be somewhat distracting and uneven in certain scenes and the picture overall just looks muddled. Considering this is one of the newer films in Arrow Video’s catalogue the image we get here leaves much to be desired and is easily the weakest part of this release.
Dark Water may be one of the quietest horror films I’ve ever seen with very few moments of loudness mixed into it’s subtle sound design. Arrow Video has presented Dark Water here with 5.1 surround sound which sounds great cranked up on a nice sound system. The eerie and restrained musical queues combined with the ominous ambient sounds create a chilling combo that is sure to give you some goosebumps if you’re watching Dark Water in the correct setting. Horror films are a lot more enjoyable when the music and sounds are used to enhance the terror instead of stand in for the terror themselves.
The Features & Packaging (4/5)
Once again we come to the easiest part of any review for an Arrow Video release. The special features and packaging are some of the best around. At this point if you know Arrow Video, you know to expect high quality cases, newly commissioned art that is reversible with the original, and a breadth of special features to sink your teeth into. Dark Water is no different and continues forward with this standard of quality in it’s combo BD/DVD release featuring archive interviews with the two lead actresses and theme song composer plus the original making of documentary.
Not settling for just the already available features, Arrow Video has also provided 3 newly filmed interviews; Ghosts, Rings and Water, Family Terrors, and Visualizing Horror. These feature the director, the writer, and the cinematographer respectively; they provide a solid outlet for fans of the films to gain some additional knowledge. It’s typical Arrow Video and that is a good thing.
The Technical Stuff
1080p high definition HD master presented in the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio
Japanese language presented in 5.1 surround sound
While the quality of the picture for Dark Water is certainly lacking compared to the rest of this release, it’s still hard to not give a big recommendation for horror fans to pick this one up. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Dark Water and actually anticipate watching it again in the future. As someone who heavily avoided these films during their peak, because the US remakes left a bad taste in my mouth, I also look forward to more Japanese horror release from Arrow Video in the coming months with Pulse and hopefully more going forward. Picture quality aside, Arrow Video has continued their standard of release quality. Dark Water releases with great packaging and features for a wonderfully creepy little horror gem.
Note: This Blu-ray was sent to us for review. This has not affected our editorial process in any way. Please contact us if you have any questions regarding this process.