Continuing our coverage of the 20th Annual Fantasia International Film Festival, the next film we here at LeglessCorpse had the pleasure of reviewing was Creepy, by Kiyoshi Kurosawa. The film has its festival premiere tonight in Montreal.
Being a fan of J-Horror, I was looking forward to this one, and although it wasn’t exactly what I expected, I can honestly say I wasn’t disappointed…but I’m getting ahead of myself; onward with the review.
Takakura is a former detective who, after a dangerous incident with a murderous psychopath, leaves the police force and takes a job as a professor of criminal science. He and his wife Yasuko move out of the city, into a quieter neighborhood and hopefully, a quieter life. The couple try to get to know their new neighbors, but find them mostly antisocial, and in the case of Nishino, downright odd. Writing it off, Takakura immerses himself in the university life, finding it lacking in the kind of excitement and challenge he was used to as a law enforcement officer — soon, an offer from an old partner of his to look into an unsolved crime, one where an entire family, save for a daughter that was away at school, simply disappeared. The mystery of this proves more than the former detective can resist, and he agrees to work on the case. At home, Yasuko remains persistent in her desire to befriend the strange Nishino, and after a time strikes a tenuous but friendly relationship with he and his daughter, Mio — although she still finds herself a bit put off by his erratic, at times even chilling behavior. Unbeknownst to man or wife, these two seemingly unconnected paths will intersect in their futures, throwing their home, marriage, and very lives into danger, the harbinger of this sinister development being a hushed and hurried whisper from Mio to the former lawman one afternoon:
“That man is not my father…he’s a total stranger!“
The first thing I will say about this film is that although I find all of the performances to be very well done, Teruyuki Kagawa’s portrayal of weird neighbor Nishino absolutely lends credibility to the film’s title — he’s creepy as all hell from the get go. Not since Hannibal Lecter have I gotten such a bad vibe from a character, but unlike Anthony Hopkin’s performance, Kagawa comes across as likeable a good bit of the time, somewhat pitiable in others…when he’s most frightening doesn’t come from explosive rages or evil utterances, but from a matter-of-fact sensibility masking his lethal psychosis. The story , while engrossing, is somewhat predictable — however, though the twist of the tale is telegraphed kind of early on, Kurosawa manages to make the suspense a palpable thing. Using ambient, day-to-day sounds in lieu of a jarring soundtrack and for the most part staying in broad daylight, the direction and simplistic yet somehow still dazzling cinematography imprint the sinister upon the normal — you’ll find yourself wanting to pay more attention to your neighbors after watching this flick. Kurosawa keeps up the surprises despite a plot that I initially feared might become cliché — in my viewing, I found that I was kept guessing up until the final scene.
Alluding back to my earlier statement, this isn’t J-Horror as I was first expecting — there are no spooky children, vengeful spirits, or long-haired clicking-crawly things oozing from the shadows. Creepy is much more of a crime drama than a true-blue “scary” flick, but it does effortlessly maintain a through-line of horror and suspense that’s undeniable in its march into your psyche as you sit in front of the screen.
So…if you’re wanting the expected Ringu or Ju-On type vibe from your Japanese horror film, you may be disappointed in Creepy. However, if films like Psycho, Pacific Heights, Silence of the Lambs, or Cape Fear are the kinds of things you can find frightening, bringing the “monsters” into the real world of freaky things that could happen…I recommend you give this one a go.
That’s my two on this one.