Creepy (2016) Review

"Creepy" Japanese Theatrical Poster

“Creepy” Japanese Theatrical Poster

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

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6 Responses to Creepy (2016) Review

  1. Kyle Warner says:

    Great review, Martin! Kiyoshi Kurosawa is a favorite director of mine and I’m always keen to watch and rewatch his films. Happy to hear that his return to horror resulted in another solid movie. Looking forward to seeing this one.

  2. Martin Sandison says:

    Thanks Kyle!

  3. HKFanatic says:

    As a pretty massive fan of Kiyoshi Kurosawa (although I embarrassingly haven’t seen any of his films since he took a break from genre cinema nearly a decade ago), I’m pleased to hear that “Creepy” is up to the director’s extremely high bar of quality. Thanks for the review, Martin!

  4. Paul Bramhall says:

    I confess to not being familiar with Kiyoshi Kurosawa, but this review definitely makes me curious to check out ‘Creepy’. The good news is that UK distributor Eureka! Entertainment picked it up at the Berlin Film Festival, and will be releasing it theatrically followed by Blu-ray. The company have already released some of Kurosawa’s back catalog on their Masters of Cinema label, so presumably ‘Creepy’ will also follow suit.

  5. Paul Bramhall says:

    I got through watching this one today (my prediction thankfully came true from my previous post, so I found myself in possession of Eureka!’s Blu-ray release). For me it worked fantastically well as a taut little thriller, with the two elements of Nishijima’s investigation, and the odd behavior of his neighbor, building up effectively to coincide with each other, despite how far fetched the concept actually is.

    However the movie ultimately drags on (in part due to a number of scenes with the daughter of a missing family that should have been left on the cutting room floor) to a final act horror reveal that fell a little flat for me, perhaps simply because it was exactly what you expect a horror movie involving a slightly odd neighbor to be. I also found a lot of the revelations revealed during the final act to be somewhat of a stretch to buy into. **Spoilers ahead** How did Kagawa get Takeuchi hooked on drugs so easily? Why does Mio seem barely affected by her mother being shot? Why did Kagawa trust Nishijima so much as to give him the gun? Why does Takeuchi turn against Nishijima? **End of Spoilers** While I’m sure all of these elements have explanations, they’re not effectively conveyed onscreen, which can have the effect of taking the viewer out of the movie.

    All in all though it’s definitely made me curious to check out more of Kurosawa’s work, and I’ve had a copy of ‘Kairo’ sitting on the shelf unwatched for years, so maybe it’s time to give it a whirl.

    • Kyle Warner says:

      I watched the film recently, too. My rating of the movie would be the same as Martin’s, I think. It’s not my favorite Kiyoshi Kurosawa movie — not even Top 5 — but it’s an excellent little piece of dread and strangeness.

      Some spoiler talk: My take on the daughter of the missing family is that she is what Mio would soon become. A husk of her former self, barely able to remember the awfulness that transpired or the man responsible for much of it. And, more importantly, unable to remember her own guilt. You mention the far-fetched concept: I think it goes beyond that. I think there’s something fantastical about the whole ordeal. I believe the drug is more than just heroin, but something more like a mind blocker or mind control agent. It begins as a mystery thriller and ends in straight up bizarre horror territory. Many of Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s films work similarly. Even ‘Tokyo Sonata,’ Kurosawa’s most real-world drama, becomes increasingly strange (one might say ‘unhinged’) as it enters the final act.End of Spoiler Talk

      Do check out ‘Kairo’, Paul. I think it’s Kurosawa’s best film. Also consider checking out ‘Cure’ which has some interesting similarities to ‘Creepy’ including a serial killer and the deadly power of suggestion.

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