Marebito - Tartan Asia Extreme USA
Written by Ray Casta   
Saturday, 12 January 2008

Directed by: Takashi Shimizu
Written by: Chiaki Konaka
Produced by: Hiroshi Takahashi
Cinematography by: Tsukasa Tanabe
Editing by: Masahiro Ugajin
Music by: Toshiyuki Takine
Cast: Shinya Tsukamoto, Tomomi Miyashita, Kazuhiro Nakahara, Miho Ninagawa, Shun Sugata
Year: 2004
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Color: Color
Runtime: 92 minutes

Severed Cinema - DVD Logo
Video: NTSC R1
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1 Surround - Japanese (English, Spanish Subtitles)
Distributor: Tartan Asia Extreme USA

In between the fourth "Ju-on" installment in Japan and the remake of "The Grudge", director Takashi Shimizu shot "Marebito" in only eight days, which proves to critics and viewers alike how he can be versatile, for a change.  With "Marebito", it's now realized there is more up Shimizu's sleeve besides another installment to the "Ju-on" films.  The movie is more of an experiment from Shimizu, who put aside the traditional narrative in favor of a puzzle-piece, assorted images, and episodes.  You'll even ask yourself whether the experiment worked or not.  Though the movie isn't entirely successful with its intention, the territory is so incredibly creepy and eerie, something has to have worked.  Evoking a true sense of terror, "Marebito" recalls David Cronenberg, David Lynch, and H.P. Lovecraft, as the vision differs from other Japanese horror.  Essentially an exploration of fear and inner demons, there is a ton of creepiness here for fans of Japanese horror to enjoy.

The film follows an obsessive, freelance cameraman, Masuoka (Shinya Tsukamoto), who happened to capture a gruesome suicide in an underground subway of a person ripping out one eye.  There is something the man saw that caused his apparent suicide.  Masuoka is obsessed with why this had transpired, and if he can only capture the terror on camera, he'll be satisfied with experiencing what the man experienced.  An extensive investigation follows.  Camera in hand, Masuoka believes there is an answer deep below the subway as to why this man tragically took his own life.  He decides to explore underground, where he discovers tunnels connected with a set of barren caves well beneath the city of Tokyo.  Masuoka is stunned by the discovery of a Netherworld and he stumbles upon a young girl (Tomomi Miyashita), who is completely nude, with her ankle chained to the wall.  After breaking the chain off, he takes her back to his house.  A few days pass, and Masuoka realizes she hasn't eaten or drank anything since he brought her home.  Animal's blood pleases her, but human blood is truly the only thing that she is able to consume.

Masuoka simply names the girl, "F".  He believes she is not human, and pretty soon, the audience is made to believe the same thing when F is seen crawling along the floor like an animal, she can't speak, and she can't eat food.  The appearance of F is really just the beginning; there are chilling phone calls and mysterious figures hot on his trail.  One of the calls provides enough information, as the person calling claims she is his ex-wife, who blames Masuoka for kidnapping their daughter.  A discovery is made.  Or is it?  Could F truly be Masuoka's daughter?  When Masuoka is compelled to kill for F, it becomes very clear only a father would kill for their daughter.  Masuoka's victims supply blood for F, who can live off of it.  The screenplay by Chiaki Konaka is predictable when you're sure the character will resort to bloody murder to satisfy the girl's hunger.  Everything else, however, is a surprise.  Thankfully, there is enough ambiguity to keep the film moving along.  In a film with various ideas, not all of them will work, but the ideas that do work highly benefit the film.  Believe it or not, there are many surprises throughout that you will not necessarily expect.

Like "Ringu" or "Videodrome", "Marebito" is about how one can become obsessed with technology, but with twisted results.  Obsession can be a powerful thing, and Shinya Tsukamoto's performance conveys every bit of the horror and shock necessary to the characterization.  The pace is slow, but never boring.  Any effective Japanese horror is not intent on casting a particular spell on the viewers instead of jump sequences.  Cheap suspense is not an issue with "Marebito" because atmosphere is much more important to waste.  The underground subway sequences are spectral and spooky, and the madness the character wallow in is quite scary.  Cinematography by Tsukasa Tanabe is truly emphatic, allowing enough ambivalence for the pace to keep us engaged.  Digital film was used for the film, and it's evident why.  Since the main character uses a camera, Shimizu wanted to use the same format as his tortured protagonist.  The film is far from perfect because as I've said earlier, the ideas are a bit much sometimes, making the viewer believe that "Marebito" wants to be too many films at once.  I think the mood maintains itself, however, and that’s really what saves the experiment from failing.  Not so much for its story, but the mood is why you should see the film.

When the film ends, you're likely to be confused.  Perplexed by the ambiguity, I questioned most of the film afterwards and realized it's not too much of a mystery after all.  The film strictly takes place inside Masuoka's head, and Shimizu's vision is really of a person who cannot experience reality the same way anyone else can.  When he's introduced, the screenplay makes it clear how lonely he is and how obsessed he is by being voyeuristic, watching several screens in his apartment.  Shimuzu shows Masuoka simply seeing emotions being felt, but he never really feels emotion.  Delusion is a big part in unlocking the mystery, and in retrospect, there isn't much to figure out.  Judging from the voice-over, you'll discover how it's his conscience speaking, addressing his obsession.  Completely necessary, the voice-over exists to help viewers to further understand an unhealthy persona.  There isn't really a moment throughout where Masuoka's perspective is external.  Fascinating parallels to Masuoka and F are made.  Compare the way they rely on people to continue living.  F obviously is in need of Masuoka to live, and Masuoka is in need of people around him to live.  The fear people feel is a key to help Masuoka understand, but before it's too late, his own fear controls him.


- Interview w/ director Takashi Shimizu
- Interview w/ star Shinya Tsukamoto
- Interview w/ producer Hiroshi Takahashi
- Theatrical Trailers

Interviews on the DVD are very interesting, especially director Takashi Shimizu's comments in his interview. It's pretty lengthy, running for 22 minutes and 52 seconds. He is asked what he thinks about fear personally. He talks about his inspirations, films ranging from "Evil Dead" to "Suspiria". He's talkative, rarely straying away from the interview. Originally, he wanted to make fantasy and science fiction films. Even comedy had interested him, but horror was essential to be involved in, after the great effect films like "The Texas Chain Saw Massacre" had on him. Interestingly, he tells of Urban Legends about underground passageways in Tokyo, which have been huge rumors in his country. Since "Marebito" was filmed in a mere eight days, I was very interested in what he had to say, and the interview is well worth watching. A "Marebito" theatrical trailer is included, along with trailers for "R-Point", "Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance", "Spider Forest", "Unborn but Forgotten", and "A Snake of June".

VIDEO: 1.78:1 Widescreen 1 Skull - Severed Cinema1 Skull - Severed Cinema1 Skull - Severed Cinema1 Skull - Severed CinemaNo Skull - Severed Cinema
AUDIO: Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1 Surround - Japanese (English, Spanish Subtitles) 1 Skull - Severed Cinema1 Skull - Severed Cinema1 Skull - Severed CinemaNo Skull - Severed CinemaNo Skull - Severed Cinema




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Last Updated ( Saturday, 12 January 2008 )