Tag Archives: Takashi Shimizu



FEATURING: , Tomomi Miyashita, Kazuhiro Nakahara

PLOT: A reclusive photographer obsessed with fear discovers a network of underground tunnels beneath Tokyo, where he finds a mute young woman who feeds on blood.

Still from Marebito (2004)

WHY IT MIGHT MAKE THE LIST: This slow-burn horror almost entirely eschews conventional horror narrative structure to serve as a character study of its eccentric, delusional protagonist.

COMMENTS: I still remember the J-Horror craze of the early 2000s—though, living in a mostly third-world country, I had to largely settle for experiencing them through their American remakes.

Thinking back, it really was a perfect way to bring Asian media to the Western world: films like Ringu or Ju-On or One Missed Call, with their foreign settings and basis in regional mythology, were “exotic” enough to feel different from the standard Hollywood fare, but not so overly different or extreme as to feel alienating. Even some of the genre’s more extreme offerings, like Audition, tended to join Cannibal Holocaust and A Serbian Film among the ranks of “extreme films that everyone’s heard about.”

(Of course, that probably renders all those remakes pretty much pointless, but that’s a whole other matter.)

One exception to this was Marebito. Despite coming from the creator of the Ju-On series, as well as its highly successful American remake, Marebito made little impact in the West—perhaps best reflected by the fact that it never got a remake.

And viewing Marebito, it’s not hard to see why: even among the standards of J-Horror (which, around the time, usually went for the slow burn), Marebito takes its time. Many shots simply follow the protagonist as he absently wanders the streets, or stares obsessively at his collection of recordings; and the vampiric young woman at the center of the plot doesn’t even show up until the half-hour mark.

Good for atmosphere, and consistent with Shimizu’s usual approach, certainly; but not very marketable.

Nonetheless, for those who appreciate a horror film with character, Marebito has a fair amount to offer. It’s made clear relatively quickly that the focus of the film is not its fantastical elements, but the eccentric mind of its protagonist. Masuoka (played by Shinya Tsukamoto, best known around here as the director of Tetsuo: The Iron Man) is a withdrawn and disenchanted individual with dark obsessions who is ever hidden behind his camera, relating to the world far better when seeing it through his viewfinder. And all of this is made sharply clear in the first few minutes of the movie, when we see him obsessively watching and re-watching footage that he shot of a public suicide on a subway, trying to discern what the dead man might have seen in his last few moments.

Masuoka is obsessed with the concept of fear, and seeks to uncover Continue reading APOCRYPHA CANDIDATE: MAREBITO (2004)


Rabitto Horâ 3D 

DIRECTED BY: Takashi Shimizu

FEATURING: , Takeru Shibuya, 

PLOT: A young boy has nightmares about a giant bunny after he euthanizes a wounded rabbit on the playground; his mute older sister tries to keep him from being sucked into another world.

Still from Tormented (2011)

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: Tormented is a strange little psychologically twisted J-horror, but it doesn’t exceed the limits of its genre quite enough to rank as one of the weirdest of all time.

COMMENTS: Leporiphobes beware: Tormented (literal title: Rabbit Horror) features the creepiest extra-dimensional cuddly-wuddly bunny since Frank from Donnie Darko. Two of them, actually, since there is the life-sized theme park rodent, and the identical miniaturized ragdoll bunny that floats off the screen of another movie and into young Daigo’s backpack. Mute Kiriko, Daigo’s protective older sister and mother figure, can’t get rid of that second floppy bunny, even when she tries to throw it in the incinerator; it just keeps haunting the pair, dragging both of them down a rabbit hole into a nightmare world of carousels, hospital corridors, spiral staircases, and people dressed as animals performing disturbing acts. Meanwhile, Kiriko and Daigo’s father, a bereaved children’s book illustrator, is trapped in a fantasy world of his own, appearing indifferent to his offspring’s torment. Even though there is little question of what is happening in the dream world and what is going on in reality, the multiple hallucinations and rabbit-initiated flashbacks are disorienting. The movie is also confusing in ways that may not have been  intended; it can be hard to keep track of what’s happening to which character—and sometimes characters even seem to disappear from the action, sometimes even during the same scene. For the patient and observant, however, the basics eventually sort themselves out. There is a consistent psychological symbology running through the delusions—we figure out what both the giant rabbit and the little bunny doll represent—and it all leads to an effective twist two-thirds of the way through the movie. The problem with that is that most twists are revealed at the end of the movie; here, the story seems to end on a satisfactory note, yet there’s still a half an hour to go. The entire third act feels like a wrong turn, an unnecessary coda that ditches the psychological angles in favor of horror movie clichés about super-resilient supernatural adversaries. Still, the movie arguably ends on a further twist, although this one is so ambiguous that you might think you dreamed it. In the end, however, Tormented sports more pluses than minuses, with creepy atmosphere, psychological depth, and spooky bunny suits making up for the occasional storytelling misstep.

As you might guess thanks to scenes of dandelion fluff that conspicuously floats in front of the wide-eyed marveling characters, Tormented was originally shot in 3-D. Less obvious is the fact that it was lensed by celebrated cinematographer . The movie that Kiriko and Daigo watch in the theater is Shimizu’s previous effort, Shock Labyrinth.


“…a psychedelic meta-J-horror that is part ghost story, part Freudian merry-go-round, and utterly in your face.”–Anton Bitel, Little White Lies (festival screening)