Dark Water


Back in the day I was confident that the Japanese version of The Ring (aka Ringu) was the scariest movie I had ever seen.  However in subsequent years the reputation of Jap horror and it’s uprising has been diluted by a series of inferior American remakes and over-use of some of its tropes (there’s always a dead girl with long hair over her face).  So my attention waned.  Yet recently I’d been craving that ‘something special’ I had originally stumbled upon, and so I found myself lured back when I saw this get the special edition treatment.

Dark Water

Coming from the director of the Ring movies, Hideo Nakata my hopes were high and although I’m aware of the U.S. remake of the same name I’ve never bothered to see it.  Here we have a fairly familiar story of a single mother and her little girl, who move into a run down apartment building during a messy custody battle between the woman and her ex-husband.  Whilst there, it becomes clear there’s a strange presence, seemingly linked to a patch of water coming through the ceiling of the apartment.  Set in an eerie pastel-grey coloured building, the atmosphere is one of stillness and gently growing dread.  Performances on a whole are decent but it’s the story that intrigues, helped in no small way by Nakata’s masterly direction that fills the rather slow pace with discomfort and genuine creepiness.  I’ve said it before but something that is sorely lost when such movies get remade, is a sense of their setting, something that works particularly well here.  Something about how Japanese actors portray themselves, their formalities and customs and how they interact with one another can be ‘eerie’ at times, and it’s no different here.  The mystery at the heart of this is a good one and builds to an intense climax with at least one truly terrifying moment.  It may not be that far removed from what Nakata did in Ring, but how he makes something as familiar as water, constant rain or an over-flowing bath unnerving, is an accomplishment in it’s self.  One of the other great Jap horrors you might have missed … that’s well worth seeking out.

Dark Water ArrowAs expected from Arrow Video this is another packed Blu-ray release.  Image quality is a little underwhelming whilst clean but very soft, seeming to lack fine detail overall but does it’s job for what is purposely a dreary looking movie.  I should add that on the whole the subtitles are good but occasionally white backgrounds can cause some of them to become less clear to read.  Sound is much more impressive and helps build up atmosphere with good separation to make things like running footsteps and dripping water very effective.  We also get a detailed booklet in the case as well as the Blu-ray & DVD.  Extras consist of several featurettes including interviews with cast, as well as a couple more pieces, one being a new interview with Hideo Nakata, discussing his work and themes.  No commentary isn’t all that surprising, and along with dual sided cover art, this is another decent release.

Verdict:

(the movie)  4 /5

(the Blu-ray)  3 /5

Looking within…


Well this past week or so I have been playing The Evil Within.  This is Resident Evil creator Shinji Mikami’s latest foray into the world of survival horror and marks a return to form for the genre following the poorly received Resident Evil 6 and the cut & paste Silent Hill reboots.  I am enjoying it a great deal and it really feels suitably freaky and gruesome.  Mikami is a master at videogame design and pacing and this has it in spades.

theevilwithin

Atmosphere is superb and the story, for what it is … is fairly vague and trippy (the game jumps from one hallucination to the next and levels don’t follow a linear path as far as narrative is concerned).  There is a hub level where you save your game but this is also weird … a hospital or mental asylum where only a single (sort of attractive) nurse keeps you company and you go back and forth from the various levels by looking into a mirror.  You can also upgrade your abilities and weapons here by sitting in a chair that locks you in securely and clamps some sort of thing on your head … very Saw.  This game borrows heavily from various sources but has influences from Saw, Japanese horrors like The Ring and The Grudge and even The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.  It’s like a greatest hits of horror – and I am loving it.

Take a look at this gameplay demo for a good idea of this game’s tone:

The game is fairly lengthy also and I am in chapter 7 so far and know there are at least 11 chapters in total along with a new-game plus mode which I’m guessing lets you replay chapters with all your upgrades intact.  The game keeps to the Resident Evil formula with you having very limited ammo, getting weak from running, you can die very easily and you need to scavenge for supplies by opening boxes or breaking crates.  There are also a few basic puzzles to keep you occupied.  The main draw here though seems to be the boss battles, something Mikami is especially good at, and so far I’ve faced such creations as a chainsaw wielding psychopath, a freaky spider-lady and a rabid mutant dog … shudder, all brilliantly staged with plenty of clever foreshadowing (you get to creep past the dog’s massive cage in one sequence as it sleeps, leading up to a very tough encounter with the angry mutt).

If you’re after a game that’s a real throwback to the heyday of survival horror but with the big-budget stylings of Hostel or Saw … this has it.  It’s not easy, will challenge you but if you enjoy this style of game you’ll love every second.