JUNE 30, 2009
I was kind of surprised to see a new film from Hideo Nakata going direct to DVD. Not that a foreign film would ever see a wide release in the states (unless it involved a lot of guys being kicked. Or Nazis.), but I figured his name would carry enough weight to get him a limited release here, especially when dealing with familiar territory (vengeful ghosts). But after an hour or so of Kaidan, it became pretty clear why Lionsgate (or any other studio) wouldn’t want to spend the dough to put this in a few cinemas: for the most part, it’s a giant bore.
And it’s a shame, because at its core is a pretty interesting story. It’s kind of long-winded, but the long and short of it is that an ex-lover haunts a guy forever, bringing harm to each subsequent lover he takes. Everyone’s had to deal with an ex at some point, and the best horror films are the ones that are ramped up metaphorical takes on real world problems, so this should be a winner.
But that’s not the case. For starters, it’s too goddamn long. All Asian horror films run a bit on the long side, but they rarely FEEL as long as this one does, which is literally seconds under a full two hours but feels more like three. The core story is fairly simple, so what makes it so long? Well, how about the fact that the same shit happens over and over? Our “hero” (more on him in a bit) keeps taking on new lovers, the ex keeps appearing in occasionally creepy moments, and then in a panic he kills the new lover thinking that it’s the ex come back to life. The circular nature not only makes the film feel longer due to the repetition, but it also keeps the stakes from being raised. When your climax comes down to a sequence of events that is identical to something that occurred at the end of the first act, there’s a problem with the storytelling.
Another major problem is that our hero is a fucking douche. The whole movie could have been avoided if he wasn’t such a damn flirt. Within days of beginning a relationship with one woman, he’s chatting up and giving flowers to another. Over and over. He’s like Michael Mancini from Melrose Place (who at one point began cheating on his mistress with his wife’s sister). Plus, and I don’t mean to be mean about this, but the actor is kind of strange looking (he looks like a female Tim Curry in drag), so that he can so quickly attract and bed so many women in such a short period of time is sort of hard to swallow. Plus, again, he’s kind of an ass, so what the hell is the appeal? He doesn’t even have a good job! (He sells tobacco - more douchiness).
The sad thing is, had the movie been 90 minutes (and thus cutting down on the repetition), I’d probably have come out of it liking it more. There are some decent creepy moments here and there, and the finale (completely spoiled on the DVD cover, for some reason) is pretty epic, as our hero begins taking on like 10 dudes at once (and doing a fairly good job to boot) before receiving his final comeuppance. There’s also a shocking death late in the film, presented in a somewhat subtle “wait is he HOLY SHIT he IS dead!” manner. The setting is also quite nice, it’s not set in modern times for once (no haunted techno-devices, yay!), and shows a side of Japan we don’t often see in these films.
Also there’s a part where a couple argues and the woman tries to slam the little flimsy sliding door as she leaves. It’s awesome.
Also, and I can’t stress this enough - I liked that it made sense. At no time during the film was I confused as to what was going on or who certain characters were. By now I almost expect to be baffled by the narrative, so to maintain a strong grasp on the material was a refreshing change of pace. Plus I stayed awake for the entire thing, which I think is a first for a J-horror. Woo!
The only extra on the disc is a trailer reel, which has some of the usual LG stuff mixed with a few J-horrors, such as Ju-On 2 (the one I haven’t seen yet) and one of the Ringus. Ironically enough, I hope LG’s acquisition of this film means that they are considering a remake. I may be sick of Asian remakes, but for the most part that is due to the fact that they don’t change anything. Here, I really think that a good movie could be made out of this with a tighter script and more appealing actor (and character) in the lead. What’s Bradley Cooper up to?
What say you?