August 09, 2006

HAZE (2005) Latest film from the director of Tetsuo: Iron Man

HAZE (2005, Japan)
Region 2 DVD (Terra)

A cross between Cube and Hostel

A man awakes to find himself trapped in a dirty, confined crawlspace. He barely has enough room to move. He also has no memory of why he’s there, or why he’s bleeding from a stomach wound. Apparently drugged, he occasionally ‘zones out’ of his surroundings as he tries to edge towards his way to freedom. But the more he explores, the more pain he has to endure, and the more frightening his predicament becomes.

Haze immediately reminded me of a scene in the film (and the book) of Dr No, where James Bond is imprisoned and thinks he can escape through a ventilation shaft. In fact he’s crawling into a modern day torture chamber. The metal conduit gets very hot, then very cold. Then Bond gets hit by boiling water, and then (in the book) he has to break through a grill, in complete darkness, to find the tunnel filled with large spiders… Little does Bond know, he’s being watched by the Doctor, and the shaft is leading him to a deadly trap…

In the extras, the director explains how he was actually inspired by a scene from The Great Escape where Charles Bronson has to fight his claustrophobia while digging a tunnel.

Shinya Tsukamoto not only directs but stars in this film. In the extras we also see him help build the sets! In an interview he talks at length about the freedom and speed of shooting digitally. He sticks with his trademark intentionally-shaky camerawork, and the stylised look of the film may be digital, but it’s still very filmic.

My only reservation is that Haze is short – 49 minutes. I loved the atmosphere and the ‘predicament’ of the movie and would have liked a few more clues as to what was going on. It’s a brave film anyway, and would have needed courage to make a whole feature in such a confined space, but it felt like it was over too soon.

It’s intentionally painful and claustrophobic to watch, occasionally lyrical, and sometimes very gory. It also reminded me of the look and disorientation of Eraserhead.

Tsukamoto is definitely a consistent and interesting auteur director. I also really enjoyed Gemini and Hiruko the Goblin. Although the other films he has made aren't horror stories, like Tokyo Fist and Bullet Ballet, his unusal approach and visual style make me want to seek them out too.

Mark H

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