Review:  Creepy (Japan 2016)

Creepy marks something of a return to form for the one-time po-mo J-horror master Kiyoshi Kurosawa.  There was a point in the late 1990s and early 2000s when Kurosawa was one of the most exciting filmmakers working, and his every film was a cause for celebration.  Unfortunately, after an string of innovative work that included Kairo, Doppelganger, Charisma, Séance, Cure and Bright Future, Kurosawa began to languish, retreading old ground with mediocre films like Loft and Retribution, and temporarily trying on new identities with the well-received Tokyo Sonata or his oddity Beautiful New Bay Area Project.

With Creepy, Kurosawa revisits cold, existential horror with a more grounded plot.  Hidetoshi Nishijima plays a police detective specializing in serial killers who resigns his job and moves to the suburbs following a traumatic event, but cannot help allowing himself to be drawn into a local mystery.  At the same time, his wife becomes embroiled in the affairs of the couple’s odd neighbors, particularly Nishino (played by the great Teruyuki Kagawa).  The film is more psychological than Kurosawa’s usual fare – more Silence of the Lambs than Cure or Blue Velvet.  And as always, Kurosawa’s atmospherics and work with actors is excellent.

However, one problematic consequence of this change in approach is that, while his previous thrillers trafficked in the ineffable and the enigmatic – think of metaphorical horror of KairoCreepy is at least superficially more grounded.  It’s a little easier to forgive implausibility and character’s lapses in logic when dealing with the supernatural – here, the character’s motivations, while clear, are somewhat arbitrary and made to fit the needs of the plot.  While this weakens the overall punch of the film, it’s still strong work from a modern master.

2 1/2 out of 4 stars (Good).

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