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Japan 2001
produced by
Shun Shimizu, Seiji Okuda, Takeshi Inoue, Atsuyuki Shimoda, Yasuyoshi Tokuma (executive) for Imagica, Daiei, NTV (= Nippon Television Network), Hakuhodo
directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa
starring Haruhiko Kato, Kumiko Aso, Koyuki, Kurume Arisaka, Masatoshi Matsuo, Shinji Takeda, Jun Fubuki, Shun Sugata, Sho Aikawa, Koji Yakusho, Kenji Mizuhashi, Takumi Tanji, Hasei Takano, Atsushi Yuki, Go Takashima, Kaori Ichijo, Teruo Ono, Ken Furusawa, Akiko Kitamura, Zengoro Mamiana
written by Kiyoshi Kurosawa, music by Takeshi Haketa, song by Cocco

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Kawashima (Haruhiko Kato) has just set up his internet connection when he realizes that his computer occasionally dials up to the net itself and goes straight to a website suggesting "Do you want to meet a ghost ?" Since he is a computer-illiterate, Kawashima turns to the computer expert of his university, Harue (Koyuki), and the two start investigating and soon find out that the website, called Forbidden Room, has to do with the many disappearances that have been reported lately, of people who just faded out of this world and the only thing left of them are black spots on floors and walls.

Eventually, Kawashima and Harue come to a rather unquieting conclusion: since the ghost world is full, it seems, the ghosts now make the living immortal by trapping them in their loneliness. And really, within a few days, there are almost no people left in town but Kawashima and Harue, and then Harue starts having depressions and runs off as well. Kawashima tries to follow her, but stumbles upon Michi (Kumiko Aso), who has lost all her friends and colleagues to loneliness as well, and who agrees to accompany Kawashima, if only to not be alone anymore.

Eventually the two of them catch up with Harue, who now carries a gun, puts it into her mouth and ... just disappears.

Later, when he goes fetching gas for the car, Kawashima is attacked by loneliness as well, but comehow he can resist and stay in this world ... but when Michi finally comes to fetch him, he is already very weak and has left a black spot on the floor. Michi decides to leave Japan altogether and the two take a motor boat to take them out onto the open sea. Eventually they are picked up by an ocean liner, run entirely by the captain (Koji Yakusho), who has lost his entire crew to loneliness but who has refused to give up. Kawashima soon loses his battle against loneliness as well and fades away, but Michi has found new hope in the ship's captain and the two of them drift away to a place where they hope to find other people ...


Now one thing up front: I hate reviews that compare every other Japanese horror film to Ringu, as if this was the first ever shocker to come from Japan - because quite simply, Ringu wasn't, Japan has had a long and incredibly rich tradition in producing horror films that vary in style considerably.

However, the similarities between Ringu and Kairo are too striking to be overlooked: Both films are about a curse from the ghost world that is transported via mass media, both films concern the investigations of a few individuals into the curse that only uncover a more shocking truth, and in both films, very much is left unexplained without making them shallow. And if at all, on this account, Kairo beats Ringu by far, as even after having seen the film in its entirety, it'shard to make heads or tails of it.

So does this make Kairo nothing more than a highly derivative muddled mess ?

Hell no, while Kairo might not be too great on story, it is simply scary as hell. There is simply no other film that matches this ones mastery of making trivial things such as black spots or people standing still quite as creepy. Maybe Kairo most closely resembles a bizarre nightmare that despite its leaps in logic keeps one completely entranced and is able to scare the living shit out of the dreamer - and actually, I can't think of anything much nicer to say about a horror film. Simply put, a masterpiece.


review © by Mike Haberfelner


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On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide


A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD



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