The Flight Attendant, Billie Eilish “Therefore I Am” and More!

Creepy (2016)

Hal: As streaming service MUBI have recently undertaken a season of Kiyoshi Kurosawa films, some of which are difficult to acquire copies of by other means, I’ve been taking the opportunity to catch up with some of his work that had previously escaped my notice. His 1997 film Cure is one of my all time favourite horror movies and his celebrated follow up Pulse might be in similar territory if I felt I had a better grasp on it. However, despite continuing to be productive, in recent years he has stepped away from the horror and psychological thriller territory with which his international reputation was made.

MUBI’s season included, among others, his 2013 action short Beautiful New Bay Area Project, deftly allegorising gentrification as an unsought romantic advance, and Journey to the Shore, which approached similar themes of isolation, alienation and mortality to his horror work, but through a more pastel fantasy melodrama. The choicest discovery of the season for me though, did find him in a more predictably macabre lane.

I do often find it fascinating, once you get into the rhythm of reading films from a cultural studies perspective, that films can be startlingly effective at making you feel about, and engage with, stories that don’t align with your personal or political views. However firmly held your beliefs in a subject might be, a skilfully told story can position you quite differently, though you may even realise what it’s doing and how it’s manipulating you into that position as it digs its claws into your baser instincts. In mainstream cinema probably the most common form of this is the audience’s desire for revenge against a fictional character. However firmly you may hold against capital punishment in real life, who hasn’t at one point found a fictional villain so odious you’d make an unhesitating exception. Films like Dirty HarryOnce Upon a Time in Hollywood, or yes, this film, all work with me, despite their status as cultural bastions of conservative paranoia. Although, I will certainly avow that there’s more to Creepy than a mere reactionary fable about the mentally ill and their malign influence on the modern family institution. The film’s ending, though initially a delicious catharsis, almost immediately mutates, turning the film’s gaze inwards at its central couple and their unsustainable position in the modern world.

Playing heavily with conventional serial killer movie tropes, the film follows Koichi, a detective who left the force following a fatal error shown in the film’s prologue and has just moved into a new neighbourhood with his wife, as he begins to investigate an old case and suspects his spectacularly “creepy” new neighbour Nishino of involvement. The film returns Kurosawa both to a frosty horror mode in general, and to the specific arena of manipulation, hypnotism and brainwashing, explored in his magnificently sinister psychological thriller Cure, delving into decaying suburbs and provincial police precincts.

Nishino, as played by Teruyuki Kagawa, is less the subtly sinister presence of Cure‘s Mamiya, and more the odiously unwholesome caricatured gurning of a Peter Lorre, leaving the audience initially unsure whether to pity or simply loathe his attentions. It’s an excellent performance, flitting from almost humorous and tragic levels of social ineptness to contemptibly smug charm and everywhere in between. Many of the reviews I found have stated that the film lost them in its last third, once Nishino’s true nature begins to slowly be revealed. However, for my part the film took a considerable step upwards at this point. I had honestly found a good deal of the preceding film rather dry in comparison to the icily bleak conclusion that recaptured the insidious dread and uncanny realism of the lesser Kurosawa’s best work. Once he finally draws back his curtain over his portrait of a malign cancer buried at the heart of suburban culture and the full chilling weight of the horror is unveiled, the film moves up a gear, leading to its brilliantly dark conclusion. It’s not on the same level as his best work, and also suffers somewhat in comparison to the same year’s The Wailing from South Korea which also explored many similar tropes more deftly and creatively, but there are moments that really do recapture the magic of a film like Cure.

Written by TV Obsessive

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