Director: Kiyoshi Kurosawa
Novel: Yutaka Maekawa
Writer: Chihiro Ikeda, Kiyoshi Kurosawa
Cast: Hidetoshi Nishijima, Yuko Takeuchi, Haruna Kawaguchi, Masahiro Higashide, Teruyuki Kagawa, Ryoko Fujino, Masahiro Toda, Toru Baba Misaki Saisho, Takashi Sasano
Running Time: 130 min.
By Martin Sandison
An established Japanese film company called Shochiku, which celebrated its 120th anniversary last year, has left an enduring legacy. From Yasujiro Ozu masterpieces such as Tokyo Story to more recent output such as Casshern, the diversity of movies the company produces is legendary. As the lights dimmed in the Cinemaxx theatre at the Berlin Film Festival, the appearance of the Shochiku logo ensured that I would be watching a quality movie…
Creepy is the new film from director Kyoshi Kurosawa, who has built up an impressive body of work. His films, Pulse and Tokyo Sonata, are recognizable titles to anyone familiar with world cinema. His chameleon-like ability to weave a quite traditional Japanese aesthetic into genres such as horror and drama is admirable. While not being overly stylish, Creepy contains many powerful moments.
Takakura is an ex cop turned professor who, with his wife Yasuko, has moved into a comfortable home in the suburbs. Takakura soon gets himself obsessed with an unearthed case – unsolved from 6 years before – thanks to his old partner. Meanwhile, the couple’s new neighbor seems a bit strange, but Takakura’s wife still strikes up an unlikely friendship with him. The two narratives run concurrently, and the progression of each is well-constructed: The investigation comes across as a thriller, while the dramatic potential of the other narrative is realized; the two ultimately collide.
Takakura is played by Hidetoshi Nishijima, who is best known for roles in the aforementioned Casshern and narrator for the wonderful Haruki Murakami adaptation, Tony Takinati (a movie that finds a place in my heart, since Murakami is my favorite author). Nishijima’s portrait of restraint, yet explosive emotion, is absorbing. Appearing as Yasuko is Yuko Takeuchi, who known the world over for only her second screen role in the J-horror classic Ring. Here, her character is multi-faceted; communicating strength and resolve. Teruyuki Kagawa certainly is creepy as the neighbor with a million secrets. His initial eccentricity is wonderfully drawn. A veteran character actor, Kagawa, was also in Kurosawa’s Tokyo Sonata, Takashi Miike’s misstep Sukiyaki Western Django and mainstream fare like Rurouni Kenshin.
The bridging of the two storylines is handled brilliantly by Kurosawa, each told with a different aesthetic and tone that is never jarring. The use of long takes, so prevalent in all cinema these days, serve dramatic purpose and is never obligatory. The influence of classical Japanese cinema is evident, with elegant camerawork that is reminiscent of Ozu at his best. Takeshi Kitano’s detached, but comical style, in films such as Sonatine, is also clear, especially with the early treatment of Kagawa’s eccentric character.
J-horror’s style and intimation of extreme violence is present, certainly as the narrative builds to an extraordinary climax with the novel use of a vacuum pack – a scene that will haunt my memory for a while. Overall, the film that I was most reminded of was Takashi Miike’s all-time classic Audition, with its surreal atmosphere and escalating horror.
Creepy is effective at developing character, while still leaving room for intrigue and suspense. While not as immediately satisfying as Audition or Sonatine, the film is one that haunts you, and definitely warrants a revisit.
Martin Sandison’s Rating: 8/10