Wednesday, May 6, 2009


Director Takashi Shimizu has had a lot of success as a J-horror director. Not only was he responsible for the Ju-on: The Grudge franchise, he's one of the few Japanese filmmakers invited to do the Hollywood remake as well. He also made the very weird and low-key Marebito (starring Shinya Tsukamoto).

But one film he made back in 2005 didn't get much traction here in the US, a little J-horror gem called Reincarnation. Oh sure, it got picked up by the After Dark Horrorfest, but to be thrown in with a bunch of other so-called Films to Die For seems a significant step down for the talented Mr. Shimizu. So what happened? Admittedly the J-horror genre was losing its appeal, and perhaps Reincarnation was considered something to be unloaded for a quick buck. But I can't help thinking the stabbing deaths of two small children had something to do with it. As I pointed out in Asia Shock, killing kids onscreen is more common in Asian horror, but tends to be off-putting for US audiences. While not terribly graphic, the scenes are disturbing, and I wouldn't be surprised if that was the deal-breaker for American distributors.

Reincarnation hits all the J-horror buttons (sympathetic girl protagonist, freaky ghosts, a backstory concerning dark doings decades earlier), but adds a meta-fictional twist: The plot revolves around a movie being made about the events that led to all the horror (in this case a massacre in a hotel). Between the flashbacks, dream sequences, supernatural encounters and filmmaking sequences, it all gets rather disorienting rather quickly, but that's all part of the fun. Oh and to top things off there's a creepy doll that gets creepier as things go along.

As usual, I'm years late writing about this film, but who cares. I don't have to be Mr. First-Nighter at the film festival (although that's fun too). I get to 'em when I get to 'em. And I'm here to tell you, this was a good one.


Castlerock said...

I liked this movie but I am a little confused, if the ghosts where taking the people who were the reincarnations of the murder victims, Who were the ghosts?

Patrick Galloway said...

Beats me. You don't want to lean too hard on J-horror logic. Ambiguity and loose ends -- it's all part of the package. That's why the Hollywood remakes seem so canned in comparison -- US audiences don't do irony and shades of gray, and they sure don't want to get confused (or so Hollywood producers think). Me, I don't mind. J-horror is more about atmosphere than strict plotting.

Castlerock said...

I don't mind if things are left open to different interpretations, I later go to my favorite horror forum and start a thread about it.

Patrick Galloway said...

There you go!