Reviewed by: Rees Savidis
What's it about
It’s ‘Sliver’ meets H.P.Lovecraft as Masuoka, a surveillance-video-obsessed cameraman seeks out the true meaning of fear. Journeying deep beneath the neon insanity of Tokyo, Masuoka comes to the horrifying realization that fear may be more than just a state of mind…it could very well be a real and frighteningly tangible place.
Is it good movie?
What can you say about a country that has ‘Cannibal Holocaust’ out-grossing ‘E.T.’ other than that they love their horror flicks. While I didn’t write my thesis on the subject, I have seen my fair share of Japanese horror films – everything from Kurosawa to ‘Centipede Horror’…even those ‘Guinea Pig’ pieces of shit – and I’ve got to say, a few instances aside, I just don’t get them. I’m also none-too fond of the recent glut of films propagated by Americanized-remake-fever that’s spread through Hollywood like bird-flu since the box-office domination of ‘The Ring’ back in 2000. Now, this is not to say that I don’t (read; won’t) give Japanese horror films a fair shake, I’m just putting it out there that I haven’t had much of anything resembling luck on the subject in probably...forever. That was until this morning.
I saw Director Takashi Shimizu’s ‘Ju-On: The Grudge’ and its smells-like-ass Ameremakecan version ‘The Grudge’ when they were released a couple of years ago and I didn’t really care for either. So it was with some hesitation and much prodding from my girlfriend (also coupled with the fact that it’s my job) that I decided to toss in the director’s latest film ‘Marebito’ and give it a spin. To say I was surprised by the outcome is like saying the Pope wears a funny hat. ‘Marebito’ works man, it’s a smart, moody and effective little bit of storytelling. Moving along at a very deliberate pace, we are slowly pulled into a quiet madness by Shimizu and leading man Shinya Tsukamoto using tools as simple as narration and a consumer grade video camera. Stylistically, ‘Marebito’ is served nicely by Shimizu’s choice to shoot on Digi-Beta over film, lending a voyeuristic quality to the film he might not have achieved had a larger, more polished movie been made in its place. Well done Mr. Shimizu.
The biggest compliment I can pay Shimizu and his writer Chiaki Konaka is this; never in my living days would I have though I’d see a Japanese man (in this case Masuoka, played by Shinya Tsukamoto) stand on the precipice of a cavernous world and proclaim it to be “The Mountains of Madness”. If any of you are wondering, that’s a direct H.P. Lovecraft reference… and it kicked my ass. At the start of ‘Marebito’ I mistakenly assumed it would be yet another story of ghost-children and meowing woman with stringy black hair. Boy was I wrong. At the end of act one, the entire film takes a major tonal shift, playing on all manner of Lovecrftian themes that had me giddy with delight. I won’t go into them here – not because I’m lazy, and I most certainly am that – but because I think folks would be better served to check ‘Marebito’ out on their own and discover it as I did; unsuspecting.
Video / Audio
VIDEO: A very respectable 1:78:1 transfer. Given ‘Marebito’s’ source-print, I was very pleased with the outcome.
AUDIO: Dolby Digital and DTS! We win. Both sound great, with the slight advantage given to the DTS track for its natural feel (or is it sound?).
The extras on this DVD edition of ‘Marebito’ are rather limited but informative and enjoyable nonetheless. Here’s what you get:
Interview with Director Takashi Shimizu: A very soft-spoken Shimizu discusses the nature of fear and the process of translating it into film.
Interview with Actor Shinya Tsukamoto: Tsukamoto discusses working with Takashi Shimizu and where he finds his inspiration. I’d also like to mention that the interviewer runs out of questions for Tsukamoto on camera five minutes into an interview that Tsukamoto booked two-hours of his time for. It’s amusing to watch Tsukamoto’s face as we listen to the interviewer trying to figure out what to do next.
Interview with Producer Hiroshi Takahashi: Takahashi discusses the state of “J-horror” and the effects it’s had on cinema today.
The rest of the disc is rounded out by trailers for ‘Marebito’ as well as five other Tartan Asia Extreme titles including ‘Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance’, ‘Spider Forest’, ‘R-Point’, ‘Unborn but Forgotten’ and ‘A Snake in June’.
The fact that ‘Marebito’ plays out in a world so obviously inspired by H.P.Lovecraft should be enough of a recommendation. While not re-inventing the wheel-of-cinema, ‘Marebito’ is an effective, well made and genuinely creepy little horror film that stands heads above most films of its ilk. Apparently, not all "J-horror" films are created equal...now that I know that, I just might give a few more of them a chance to impress.