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Tuesday, 11 September 2007

Marebito (2004) Takashi Shimizu

The shaky hand held voyeuristic camerawork and security camera footage that this film starts out with belies the fact that we're dealing with two major Japanese genre directors: one. Takashi Shimizu directs and he's the man behind both the Japanese and the American versions of The Grudge, seven films in all now. The lead actor is Shinya Tsukamoto, who as a director made a number of pioneering films, not least Tetsuo and Tetsuo II: Body Hammer.

He's a filmmaker here too, Masuoka by name, who is obsessed with terror, especially the terror he recorded on one man's face as he commits suicide by thrusting a knife into his eye. The obsession isn't minor, as he even quits taking prozac to control his serotonin level. He wants to feel the same level of terror, so that he can see what others in similar situations see. Unable to replicate the feeling through standard means, he ventures deep underground into the subway tunnels beneath Tokyo.

Soon we find ourselves wandering with Masuoka through a whole host of Forteana, guided by the dead Furoki. We work through Blavatsky and Shaver to the Hollow Earth theory and the city of Shamballa and on to Lovecraft's Mountains of Madness, blurring fiction and fact and the intriguing concept of fiction that became fact over time. Then there are the mysterious Deros who are dangerous powers in the underworld. Naked fanged Japanese girls chained in underground caves can hardly be a bad thing, though the bruises and bizarre skin tones aid the freaky feel of the film.

Masuoka rescues this particular fanged naked girl and takes care of her in his apartment, monitoring her via a petcam he can access through his mobile phone. He christens her F, and finds that she doesn't talk and she doesn't eat or drink except blood. Soon he receives a mysterious phone call from someone who claims that while he thinks he's saving her, he's actually killing her. Tomomi Miyashita is a very weird, very freaky and very believable vampire slave girl, and she adds as much to this film as Tsukamoto's bland yet bizarre unassumingness. Nothing seems to affect him hugely and when something does we're completely shocked.

There aren't a lot of scary moments in this film, which really doesn't count as a horror film per se. However there are some shocks and it's very creepy and freaky indeed, the more so for being based fundamentally in reality rather than fantasy. It's also absolutely gripping, as we continually question just what it is that we're seeing, where it's going and what it all really means. As with many Asian horror titles nowadays, there are still questions even after the credits roll, as to which interpretation is the real one. This one is very cool.

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