Written by: John White on December 17th, 2005
Theatrical Release Date: 2004
Director: Takashi Shimura
Cast: Shinya Tsukamoto, Tomomi Miyashita
DVD released: November 2005
Approximate running time: 91 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1 (Japanese)
DVD Release: Panasia
Region Coding: Region 3 NTSC
Retail Price: HK$102
Masuoka (Tsukamoto) is an unemployed cameraman who has set up electronic surveillance cameras all around his apartment and carries a camera everywhere with him. One day he witnesses the graphic suicide of Kuroki in the underground and starts to obsess about what made the man do it. He decides the answer must lie in the catacombs of the underground and takes his camera down into them to see if there is a netherworld. Once there he hears stories of Deros, vampire robots, and somehow sees Kuroki. Chasing after Kuroki, he finds a young pale girl, F, chained and naked. He takes her back to his apartment to observe her but finds she refuses to eat or drink. Then he cuts his hand and she becomes excited by the blood, he offers her the wound and so begins a dreadful feeding frenzy that can’t be sated
Marebito is truly disturbing. You see a man killing people for food for his daughter, you see a sick voyeur, and the film opens with the playing of a “snuff” tape. It operates on two levels but leaves you with little sense of which level is right. On the one hand Masuoka has gone mad and is torturing his daughter, and on the other perhaps he has found a vampire underground. This doesn’t really matter in the end as the film is about fear and the kind of fear which drives people to an ultimate sacrifice. By the end of the film Masuoka has learnt that you can never understand fear as it is programmed instincts which have kept us surviving for thousands of years, but he does become consumed by his own.
As you would imagine from the director of the Ju-on films the underground sequences are very well done and eerie. All of the performances are heightened and hysterical with Tsukamoto being as obsessive and dark as his performances in Ichi the Killer and his own films would suggest. The role of “F” is wordless and thankless but brilliantly done in an animalistic turn by Tomomi Miyashita.
Marebito seems to have been formed out of equal parts Lovecraft and Edgar Rice Burrows. Marebito does have a much improvised feel and is decidedly closer to the subject matter of Tsukamoto’s films than it is near to Shimuzu’s previous pieces. This does mean that it can feel a bit messy in places and the narrative is contemplative rather than tight, but it is truly intriguing and it has that unexplained edge to it that would appeal to fans of David Lynch or Tsukamoto.
The Panasia disc comes with only the film on the disc. The English subs are excellent and the DVD comes in a slipcase. The transfer is excellent and the print spotless, there is a lot of use of worn video footage in this film but the print is always sharp and clean.
As with other Shimuzu films the sound is key to this movie’s ability to unsettle and the 5.1 surround is perfect in recreating those dank tunnels and dark corners.
The Panasia disc is available from those nice people at www.exploitedcinema.com and a must for fans of J Horror.