Helmed by the J-horror hotshot behind the Ju-on films (and their Yankee Grudge remakes), and starring Tetsuo auteur Shinya Tsukamoto, this all-digital indie is, by genre standards, either a misfired doodle or an attempt to Lovecraft-ize the popular movement. Or both. Tsukamoto’s shutterbug loner, his flat a mad tangle of video and surveillance equipment, is obsessed with fear—not unlike an entire generation of Asian filmmakers and viewers. He hunts it down in the Tokyo streets, studies photographs of suicides, thinks of it in unconvincingly abstract terms—until he finds a nondescript door in the subway and enters a secret underworld that eventually opens up into a cavernous fantasy realm. There he finds a naked, gray-skinned girl in chains, and decides to bring her back to reality.
Then our hero must attempt to acclimatize the gamine to modern-day Japan, or at least to his apartment, but she sleeps all the time, drinks blood, and says nothing. Anyone with college-age children can sympathize, but Marebito is more contemplative (albeit of nonsensical issues) than frightening, and little about it suggests that Shimizu even had a script written before he began shooting. For a tasty pulp myth about “fear,” turn to William Castle’s The Tingler.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on November 29, 2005