Director – Takashi Shimizu
Cast – Shinya Tsukamoto, Tomomi Miyashita, Kazuhiro Nakahara, Mjho Ninagawa, Shun Sugata
Release Year – 2004
Reviewed by John of the Dead
Japanese director Takashi Shimizu made his name in the horror realm for the “Ju-on: The Grudge” series which he created, a very popular series in Japan that brought us a remake of “Ju-on: The Grudge” which Shimizu himself directed, simply titled “The Grudge”. Between his original “Ju-on: The Grudge” and his subsequent American remake, he spent 8 days shooting this lesser known film “Marebito”, which has acquired somewhat of a cult following. Sadly, I did not enjoy this film as much as I expected to, and I can tell you exactly why this film was shot in a mere 8 days. Read on.
This flick follows a shy freelance cameraman obsessed over the urban legend that underneath Tokyo there lies a spiritual underworld among Tokyo’s subway system. One day this man, Masuoka, ventures into the underground subway system armed with his ever-present video camera prepared to document what he finds. He makes his way to the site of a recent suicide of a man which he believes killed himself over what he saw in the tunnels…and Masuoka finds what he has been looking for. He discovers an underworld of disturbing creatures, among them a beautiful young girl chained to a wall. Masuoka decides to rescue the girl and bring her home with him, which seals his fate.
I personally have never been in a subway tunnel, but from what I see of them in films such as “Mimic” I can see why some would have a fear of being in one…as I would. They are dark, murky, and come with many shadowy places for an awesome antagonist to hide, so naturally I expected to like this film. I will not go as far as to say that this flick is a truly bad film, it just lacks any compelling focus from start to finish. When I mentioned I knew exactly why this film took a mere 8 days to shoot it was for one solid reason…NOTHING happens.
Story-wise this film is a bore. When I say “NOTHING” happens, I am referring to big events in the film that would grasp the viewer’s undivided an engage the viewer, but none of that occurs. The scares are pretty tame, and none of the acting jobs were worth positively noting either. It could be due to the dull and poor dialogue this film has, or maybe the short shooting schedule did not allow for many reshoots. Nonetheless, this script sucks. A supernatural story told in a labyrinth of underground tunnels should be very compelling given the premise is a creepy one but this film just did not run away with that idea and kept things quite PG for the bulk of the film.
Takashi Shimizu’s direction is OK as far as how this film was shot(half third person, half first-person) but he never gave me anything visually to hold on to. What few potentially creepy scenes we had were dragged on way too long and provided nothing even remotely close to a cheap pop-up scare. Yes, I am serious about that. I have seen bullsh*t Hollywood remakes that give more scares than this film does, and that is sad coming from the usually scary J-Horror scene.
Overall, this is a mediocre watch that I would not really recommend unless you have plenty of time to kill and nothing to distract you while giving this flick a watch. Supernatural fans may enjoy this one, but be prepared to down several quarts of coffee before hitting the PLAY button.