November 09, 2006

REINCARNATION (2005) Takashi Shimizu's best horror yet

REINCARNATION (2005, Japan, aka Rinne)

Region 2 PAL DVD (from Tartan Asia Extreme)

A marvellous scary new horror film

What is it about Takashi Shimizu’s films that frighten me so much? I’m glad they do – there’s so little else that does. Watching Reincarnation, I was already creeped out before the opening titles had run.

During a wave of hauntings, a movie director begins making a film about a real-life mass-murder from 35 years before. He takes his cast and crew to the abandoned hotel where it all happened. One of the actresses he has cast seems all too familiar with the case…

Again using his uncanny sense of location, that heavily influences the story, Shimizu has used a rundown hotel, and rebuilt it as a studio set as it must have looked thirty years ago. Cleverly, this is also what the director in the story does, an example of how Reincarnation works on several levels, much as Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom (1960) did. We’re seeing events as seen by the actual director, the character of the director, and through the eyes of the killer, who was filming his victims on the day.

Shimizu manages to successfully combine key elements from many of his favourite classic horror films, such as The Shining, Psycho and even Dawn of the Dead (hurrah!).

But it’s still an impressively original scenario in many ways. The nature of the haunting is interesting and the appearance of ghosts as a group is effectively done. The narrative shifting between time-frames and between hotel and studio set is effectively done.

Shimizu reuses his device of disconnected strangers slowly linking up, and also uses familiar methods from Ju-on
to show ghosts appearing, but he builds on his old methods to portray a harrowing descent into a time and place we’d rather not be… smack bang in the middle of a spree-killing in progress. I was reminded of the atmosphere of dread that director Gus Van Sant elicited in Elephant - a powerful evocation of the day of the Columbine High School shootings.

There are many startling scenes, brilliantly staged and filmed. A clever and ghastly nightmare – this is easily the best of the J-Horror Theater films, and at the moment I’ll say it’s the best Takashi Shimizu film yet. I’m saying that speaking as a big fan of The Grudge/Ju-on movies too.

Once again, the UK DVD art is unimpressive (at top). With cover art this vague, the film won’t sell on the title alone, given the weak and unscary films that have dealt with reincarnation in the past. The creepy covers and posters used in South East Asia may have shifted a few extra copies.

The Tartan DVD release in the UK has no extras except a couple of trailers. But the 5.1 and DTS audio tracks are very welcome, and the picture quality is super.

Do you want to know more?
TwitchFilm has a bevy of trailers and more stills...

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  1. I agree with your review 100%! This is a scary movie and his films freak me the hell out. I have some friends that can't get past subtitles, but so many awesome genre pictures are overlooked because of that short sighted-ness. It's nice to find a blog that reviews the movies I like...:)

    Have you even seen "The Devil's Backbone", if so is that reviewed here?


  2. I'm glad it's not just me that likes Reincarnation. I'm a fan of his Grudge movies, but this is more consistent.

    I did watch DEVIL'S BACKBONE, but didn't review it, because I didn't like it nearly as much as Thailand's DORM...