What is it about little girls in horror movies? Frequently appearing as both victims and horrible ghosts you could almost make a horror movie using only little girls and it'd still work with most modern horror conventions...... If not being a little insufferable. That said lets plunge head first into
This is a film by Hideo Nakata, who you should probably know Directed "Ringu" (AKA "The Ring"), a film so ridiculously famous that I'm not going to bother re-watching it and sending you a tedious review. Know simply that "Ringu" restarted the Asian horror movie scene after making big mega bucks in the west and having an American remake. Since then almost no Asian horror film has been complete without a long dark haired young woman whose face is obscured wandering slowly towards you, possibly crawling over your bed and just before she reaches you, the camera cuts away and you're later found dead. Seeing as Mr.Nakata is currently one of the most copied Directors in the east (See Japanese re-make of "Dark Water" and American remake of "Dark water") the one thing I was not expecting from this film was originality, but I was adequately surprised! Unlike almost every other film I've reviewed for you so far this film takes pretty much no influence from western cinema (aside from the occasional nod towards certain famous films like "The Shining") which makes this a very eastern focused film. It's clearly intended for Japanese audiences as it keeps their culture very much intact throughout......including all the sexism! I don't expect you'll ever watch this, so I'm going to go ahead and ruin it for you.
The film follows single mother Yoshimi who (curiously) doesn't battle pink robots but instead battles for custody of her child Ikuko. There's alot of strange elements to this film that never entirely get explained, while I could be lazy and assume that some things get lost in translation I can't help but feel that Hideo Nakata can (at times) be an incredibly unfocused writer. It almost feels like there's too much being squeezed into this film and early on it really could head in any direction. The film starts with Yoshimi reminiscing about how she'd frequently be the last girl at Kindergarten to be collected by her Mother..... This theme is echoed throughout the film but never actually goes anywhere and doesn't hold any relevance to anything! Flash forward and she's arguing her ability to care for the kid to some curiously insensitive social workers..... no seriously...they ask some of the most invasive and unnecessary questions you'll ever see.. "we heard you used to sleep walk as a child?" Who cares! why could that be a problem! I understand that this is all meant to give the backing to Yoshimi but it comes across as completely inappropriate. Anyway... She and Ikuko go house hunting and end up at the evillest looking tenement ever! over looking the kind of industrial landscape that makes northern Russia look glamorous. Obviously a bargain they move in immediately...
At this point I want to point out something important. Hideo Nakata hates horror movies! yeah it's strange.... The one person responsible for restarting the whole horror movie industry in Japan... hates it! I think this is why he sometimes misses some pretty obvious things.... like the plot in Ju-on: the grudge... and the pay off in this film... The one thing he is fucking superb at is atmosphere.. This guy can make almost anything creepy as hell! and one thing that he really makes creepy as hell? This fucking evil tenement block!
From the second they enter it somethings just not quite right, everythings really tense and the inhabitants are really odd. Water, which remember is part of the theme, is everywhere... like seriously.. when there's water IN THE LIFT! Call a plumber or live elsewhere! While walking around and generally being creeped out Ikuko goes missing, YEAH THAT'S NOT A BAD START! I mean honestly. When I was 5 I was terrified of everything, EVERYTHING! The very idea that you'd go exploring by your self in a huge evil looking tenement is implausible.... Anyway, she's found up on the roof!........................................ where she's found a neat looking red handbag with a hello kitty style bunny rabbit on the front. Spoilsport Yoshimi doesn't let her keep it however and makes the building manager put it in a lost and found box by reception.
They move in and everything seems ok... apart from a damp patch on the ceiling that starts to head towards Yoshimi's bed.... and the teachers at the pre-school, who Yoshimi seems to think are bad.... despite them being the most incredibly liberal and average teachers you could possibly imagine in a horror film! Sure enough the ceiling starts to leak and weird shit starts happening (A hair in the tap water ew!)...also that red bag keeps appearing on the roof, despite several attempts to bin it. We find out that a little girl about Ikuko's age went missing about a year earlier....so it seems obvious that she's the ghost in this one. In fact I assumed that she'd been kidnapped, raped and murdered ...... possibly by Ikuko's dad! And we'd have to sit through loads of hauntings until eventually we'd be forced to relive that experience, catch the murdering douche bag and hooray! happy ending!..... not even close......Three things are painfully obvious though: 1, the girl is dead. 2, her body is in the water tower on top of the building. 3, Ikuko is going a bit mad and possibly playing with the ghost of this dead girl.
Things come to a head when the ghost goes the Ikukos school and drips some pretty nasty looking water on her which makes her vomit and collapse. While recovering at home shit gets worse as the damp patch on the ceiling spreads.... this leads to possibly the scariest part of the film. Yoshimi falls unconscious while at Ikukos bed side... has a big flashback to the dead girls past and when she wakes up Ikuko's missing. She hears movement in the flat above, assumes it's Ikuko (as you do) and goes to investigate. The flat upstairs is vacant (established earlier) and when Yoshimi enters it, it's become kind of a nightmarish decayed Silent hill-esque room. She finds Ikuko and legs it.
The strangest thing ever happens next... Yoshimi's lawyer arrives and sorts out.....well Everything! Seriously! So they decide to stay in the house???????? I know!!!!!!!
However things aren't all great. The ghost returns, has a really very good attempt at killing Ikuko (why ghost why?) and then does the second strangest thing ever.... Confronts Yoshimi and takes her as her mother....Which Yoshimi accepts.... The ghost then drowns her...........
Cut to ten years in the future???????? At least he tells us this time.
Ikuko is all grown up, returns to the now derelict tenement block... Meets her mother as a ghost?????? Chats for awhile!!!! and then leaves????????
I really don't understand this.... Ok so we find out the the dead girl wasn't killed or anything interesting... she just fell in the water tower and drowned! (what a clutz)! so I guess she's looking for a mother figure? Strange... because when alive she lived only with her dad! Why take on that role? why not just run the fuck away? Why do we have to learn about Yoshimi's shitty upbringing? Why is there this constant repetition of a young girl being the last girl to be picked up from school? Why are the pre-school teachers made out to be sinister even though they're not at all? Why do they make Ikuko's dad so sinister?
All these things really distract from what's going on....
I mean I liked this film, it's beautifully shot and the techniques for the ghost are still genuinely creepy. I still love the complete lack of jump moments, but something just seems abit broken about this film.