Marebito: The Stranger from Afar
2006
Masuoka (Shinya Tsukamoto), a fragile cameraman who's afraid of the unknown that he's certain lurks around every corner, is the last person one would expect to rise to the occasion when courage is needed. But that he does when he winds up with an assignment that has him looking into an urban myth about specters that supposedly haunt Tokyo's subterranean travel system in this fantastical film directed by Takashi Shimizu.

Scott Hardie: “It was ok.”

[Spoilers.] Takashi Shimizu's criticism of the recent fad of J-horror flicks (The Ring, The Grudge, Dark Water, The Eye, Pulse) has an honorable premise: Attack the audience, not the industry. His hero, a documentarian captures a suicide on camera and becomes obsessed with the grisly footage, rewinding it over and over while we're forced to watch over his shoulder as Shimizu condemns our bloodlust. When the hero journeys into subterranean caverns to find more horrors, he brings a pretty woman back with him, but she turns out to have a taste for his blood, and Shimizu seems to be shouting a warning about allowing this kind of psychological disturbance into our mainstream culture and shared consciousness.

Or at least, that's what I presume his argument was, since to me it seemed like he was criticizing the J-horror genre for being incredibly boring. His hero wanders and wanders and wanders to the point where we expect the end credits to start rolling he's been gone so long, and he stares so long and hard at his video monitors that we want to plead for mercy from Shimizu for ever wanting to watch a movie in our lives. The pace accurately captures the mindset of this lonely, cautious man, but it fails to entertain and needed a longer development phase. (The movie was made in nine days.) Just because a movie challenges the mind doesn't mean it has to bore the spirit.

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