March 19, 2024

DARK WATER (4K) and the Bathtub Ring

2002 / 101 min
Review by Josey, the Sudden Cat🙀

Director Hideo Nakata is the guy largely responsible for the global popularity of J-Horror, especially once Hollywood got its mitts on his most famous film, Ringu, and cranked out of comparatively decent remake. And because The Ring was so successful, we were subsequently inundated by Americanized J-Horror adaptations…most of them terrible. 

Nakata himself once even jumped across the pond to direct The Ring Two. While I wouldn’t go so far as to call it terrible, it paled in comparison to both The Ring and the original film (as did his own Japanese sequel Ring 2).

In the interim, Nakata sort-of bounced back with 2002’s Dark Water. While seldom as creepy or unnerving as Ringu, at least it had the earmarks of what made that film a J-Horror classic. It also treads similar narrative ground, with single mother Yoshimi (Hitomi Kuroki) moving into a decaying apartment complex with five-year-old daughter Ikuko (Rio Kanno). Water is perpetually leaking from the ceiling, coming from the apartment upstairs, which happens to be the former home of a little girl who disappeared two years before. Yoshimi is soon tormented by visions of that girl, whose disappearance turns out to be directly tied to the water flooding the place (and putting Ikuko in danger). least it isn't blood in the elevator.
Deliberately paced and atmospheric, the film relies on well-rounded characters, somber performances, a foreboding score and unusually creepy locations rather than jump scares and gore. The film is slow to lay all its cards on the table because the journey is more important than the destination. Atmosphere and ambiguity are always far creepier than loads of exposition. While not quite as accomplished or scary as Ringu (I've always been somewhat disappointed by the resolution), Dark Water is a fine film worth rediscovering…certainly better than the artless American remake.

Arrow Video put out a pretty decent Blu-ray edition back in 2016, with quite a few new and archival bonus features. All that supplemental material is carried over for this 4K UHD release, though nothing new has been included. So the only upgrade here is the picture, which is a noticeable improvement. The audio is the same DTS 5.1 track featured on the original Blu-ray.


NOTE: Free Kittens Movie Guide was provided with a promo disc for review purposes. Physical supplemental material included with the final product (booklets, artwork, inserts, etc) were not available for review.


INTERVIEWS - Individual interviews with director Hideo Nakata, original short story author Koji Suzuki, cinematographer Junichiro Hayashi, actors Asami Mizukawa (teenage Ikuko) & Hitomi Kuroki (Yoshimi), songwriter Shikao Suga



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