Japanese Horror is perhaps the most unique and talked about strand of horror, as it caters to both pretentious art house snobs such as myself and the hardcore horror fans. J-Horror has some of the creepiest and most disturbing imagery you will ever see, think the sound that Asami makes when she shoves needles into her hapless victim in Miike Takeshi’s Audition, think Sadako’s nailless fingers and the sound the ghost in the grudge makes. One of the masters of the genre is Kiyoshi Kurosawa director of 2001’s Pulse; he returns to the genre with a remarkably creepy film, Creepy. (Sorry hopefully this will be the last creepy joke, maybe…)
Creepy focuses on police profiler Koichi Takakura (Hidetoshi Nishijima) and his wife Yasuko (Yuko Takeuchi) who have moved to a new neighbourhood after Koichi receives an injury from an escaped prisoner. Now teaching at the local university, a former colleague asks for help on a cold missing person case where the only witness is the daughter Saki Honda. However, Koichi begins to see parallels with one of his neighbours, Masayuki Nishino (Teruyuki Kagawa).
With Creepy Kurosawa shows that he is the master of tension and suspense. His use of colour and camera angles are all clearly designed to unsettle an audience, keeping viewers at arm’s length of the action, unable to stop or change the events occurring on screen in any way. Information is always delayed until the last possible minute, and the build up to it is almost unbearable. Kurosawa also knows what questions to answer and which to leave unanswered, I won’t go into it due to the danger of encroaching on spoiler territory, but just know that the film doesn’t end just because the credits begin to roll.
The cinematography and editing are all fantastic, but the thing that shines are the performances. Nishijima provides a worn down, bored, dogged stoicism that would be right at home in any film noir and Takeuchi is absolutely brilliant as a wife slowly going crazy in a domestic setting. Though everyone is wonderful, the standout has to be Teruyuki Kagawa as the slimy and unsettling Nishino. I think Rob Staeger of the Village Voice said it best when he said: “Nishino, somehow as cowardly as he is sinister, recalls the oily nervousness of Peter Lorre.” Kagawa’s Nishino is entirely terrifying partly due to his weakness; the audience thinks that they can overpower him, but as the events of the film unfold we wonder whether the same would happen to us.
Many have pointed out that Creepy has much more going on under the surface. It displays a disintegration of the Japanese family unit; we see how married domestic life treats every member of the family as the film goes on, not just husbands and wives but children as well. It causes audiences to question how much damage they inflict in their family without knowing it, just through the politics of domestic private life. Though even if you aren’t watching the film for its deeper means it is still an intense ride. The setting and theme combine to create something wholly worrying; it is an everyday neighbourhood meaning that anyone’s neighbour that could be a Nishino, meaning in turn that it could be anyone that could be the victim of the horrendous, and shocking events that take place in the film.
Creepy is a taut and entirely absorbing thriller. That is a lie, it is not a thriller, or rather it is not just a thriller it is a horror and a family drama. It transcends genre and worms its way into the back of your head sending shivers down your spine. The tension you feel especially when watching the end is palpable, you feel physically sick due to the stress of watching every minute, and it is glorious. Never have I been so unnerved by a film or a singular person. It is definitely a movie that you have to see for yourself.