November 05, 2006

INFECTION (2004) J-Horror Theater #1

INFECTION (2004, Japan, aka Kansen)
J-Horror Theater #1
Region 1 NTSC DVD (Lions Gate)

Don't like hospitals?


Infection begins in a rundown hospital in the middle of a crisis. Too many patients, supplies running out, staff not paid. You almost think that the infection in the title is already over-running the city outside (which we never see).

Of the remaining staff and patients, each one has a different problem. One of the nurses is having trouble giving injections (she keeps missing the vein), two patients have fallen out of their beds and injured themselves, one patient sees people in mirrors who aren’t in the room...

The busy doctors, torn between an operation that's going wrong, and an ambulance trying to leave an extra patient in E.R., things start going very wrong. As an unknown infection turns the patient into green slime, everyone in the building suddenly finds themselves at risk of a fate worse than death, as the hospital dissolves into chaos…

The film cleverly distances itself from TV medical dramas with a ‘look’ that’s not quite right for a hospital. It’s not quite ramshackle or dirty, it just looks wrong. The nurses seem to be careless, distracted. The doctors nervous and stressed.

A sense of unease and uncanny is quickly established that soon put me on edge and creeped me out. The many storylines that are established with each of the characters, slowly start to pay off. For a long while I wasn’t sure just which direction it was going to go, which made it even more intriguing.

The clever lighting and cinematography achieves an unusual and unique look – a crystal clear image, but with queasy, green-edged shadows.

Despite melting patients and glops of goo, there’s still much horror left unseen, which would certainly have been shown in an FX fest if this were a western horror film. There are still some excessive scenes, but the director wisely chooses to leave some extreme moments to the imagination. He achieves a fine balance of being subtly gory.

When one of the doctors notes that the hospital is having a very bad day, the film verges on black comedy. This looks intentional though, and it gives the tone just enough distance from the more mundane atmosphere of pain and death of hospital dramas, or indeed hospitals.

An ensemble cast – almost everyone gets euqal screen time – is lead by Koichi Sato (who I last saw as the lead in Rasen (1998) which was the very first Ring sequel, and I also remembered him from Antarctica from 1983).

The director chosen to kick off the horror film series, J-Horror Theatre, is Masayuki Ochiai, who previously made the enjoyable and gruesome The Hypnotist, Parasite Eve and the best story in Tales of the Unusual (2000) about a snow ghost. The second in the series,
Premonition (or Yogen), wasn't nearly as good.

This was an unusual Japanese horror, not as extreme or frightening as many others, but certainly gripping and entertaining. Just don’t ask me to explain the ending, I’m going to have to watch it again to find out.


The Region 1 DVD only has two trailers for extras. It's 16:9 anamorphic with good english subtitles. Once again I feel that the Japanese publicity artwork was more stylish and intriguing than the US DVD art.

Do you want to know more?
Masses of screengrabs and an unkind review on Snowblood Apple here.

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2 comments:

  1. That movie makes no sense, however; it does keep you entertained until you realize all the suspense and gore leaves you hanging, in the end. you will probably watch this and wonder to yourself after the movie, what the hell?

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  2. I have to say, I've read tons of reviews about this movie and everyone knocks it for not making complete sense. I've watched plenty of horror movies in my life and I want to point out that this is one of my favorites. I can't really explain why, but I love this movie so much. I can't explain the end, but I can say, there is something about this movie that entertains me and creeps me out just enough to make me come back and watch it over and over.

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