2004, NR, 92 min. Directed by Takashi Shimizu. Starring Shinya Tsukamoto, Tomomi Miyashita, Kazuhiro Nakahara.

REVIEWED By Marrit Ingman, Fri., Jan. 20, 2006

Shot in just over a week with a minuscule budget, this artsy thriller feels like a one-off from Shimizu’s Ju-on films but is probably worth a look for fans. It’s long on style and concept but lacks the primal urgency of Shimizu’s 2003 J-horror blockbuster, which successfully married its philosophical subtext – about grief, about rage, and about the permeable boundaries between the mundane and the supernatural worlds – with an old-school fright-flick ethic. Here, Shimuzu follows a Tokyo cameraman (Tsukamoto) into the city’s maze of subway tunnels, where he seeks the key to a suicide he witnessed on a platform while commuting home from work. The key is terror itself, and though the cameraman finds a shadowy underworld behind a hidden door (or does he?), Marebito is more perplexing than it is petrifying. Half of what we see is filtered through the cameraman’s lens, a technique successfully used to distort reality and amplify the suspense in Ju-on; here, the approach seems more ponderous, and while Shimizu makes his point about the subjectivity of perception (is the cameraman a reliable witness who uses technology to confirm the presence of the ineffable, or is he really mad, causing the chaos he hopes to capture on video?), the film doesn’t immerse the viewer as effectively in the horrors the protagonist perceives. There are dreadful and shocking images unleashed by the narrative, and the story (from Chiaki Konaka’s novel) has some ugly surprises. But the movie is probably too detached and too arch to really scare your pants off – it’s more like an exercise in creeping viewers out. That’s fine, of course, and it’s possible to praise the film’s climate of existential dread and urban alienation (and of psychopathic hunger sated by the blood of Tokyo schoolgirls) while noting its faults. However, Shimizu doesn’t quite achieve the ostensible goal of Marebito’s verite style and purposefully low-tech execution: to pervert our sense of what is real. It’s a movie about a movie about fear, and when H.P. Lovecraft’s “Mountains of Madness” appear in one shot, we see a bad matte painting where there should be a hallucination.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Takashi Shimizu Films
The Grudge 2
Japanese director Shimizu may be the only director in history to have helmed a pair of Hollywood remakes of his two biggest hit films and managed to screw up both of them.

Marc Savlov, Oct. 20, 2006

The Grudge
New American version of haunted-house film follows the same tack as its Japanese predecessor, but is strangely neutered by its infusion of blond American actresses.

Marc Savlov, Oct. 22, 2004

More by Marrit Ingman
Wonder Stories
Wonder Stories

July 25, 2008

King Corn
The film’s light hand, appealing style, and simple exposition make it an eminently watchable inquiry into the politics of food, public health, and the reasons why corn has become an ingredient in virtually everything we eat.

Nov. 9, 2007


Marebito, Takashi Shimizu, Shinya Tsukamoto, Tomomi Miyashita, Kazuhiro Nakahara

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Keep up with happenings around town

Kevin Curtin's bimonthly cannabis musings

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle