DARK WATER (2002). Review by Steve Kirkham



Honogurai mizu no soko kara
4 stars
Arrow Video. Limited Edition 4K UHD. Out Now

A classic J-horror, DARK WATER has Yoshimo Matsubara (Hitomi Kuroki) going through an acrimonious divorce. She is afraid her history of psychiatric treatment, brought on by proofreading novels containing graphic and sadistic content, will mean she won’t keep custody of her nearly six year old daughter Ikuku (Rio Kanno). Luckily the court sides with her and she looks for a place to live to start a new life with just the two of them.

She finds a flat in a rather grim, foreboding, grey concrete block and they move in – all seems fine in their newly decorated abode. However, it isn’t long before odd things start to happen. Her daughter inexplicably wanders off, a child’s red bag keeps reappearing after being thrown away and who is the young girl in the yellow raincoat… and then there’s the damp patch on the ceiling, which drips and keeps growing. Is all this real? Or the imaginings of a stressed out mother with previous mental health issues?

Director Hideo Nakata is probably best known for the RING/RINGU films and whilst this doesn’t quite reach those heights it is a genuinely creepy and chilling affair. Like many Japanese horror films, this is a slow build, with a growing sense of unease and foreboding and a palpable atmosphere as it moves towards a suitably hair raising climax. The coda brings the film to an ultimately sad conclusion. It is well acted by Hitomi Kuroki and little Rio Kanno has an especially expressive face.

According to other reviews I have read, previous releases of DARK WATER have been visually muddy – I don’t have the Blu Ray to hand to compare. This new rendering on 4K looks great – capturing the dour look of the surroundings (and the constant rain) with pops of vivid colour, like Ikuku’s school uniform.

EXTRAS 3 stars
Ghosts, Rings and Water – interview with director Hideo Nakata
Family Terrors – interview with author Koji Suzuki
Visualizing Horror – interview with cinematographer Junichiro Hayashi
Archive interviews with actors Hitomi Kuroki & Asami Mizukawa and theme song artist Shikao Suga
Original ‘making-of’ documentary
Trailers and TV Spots
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Peter Strain
Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring writing on the film by David Kalat and Michael Gingold