REVIEWED BY: Matt Posted on 06/10/2008
Japanese director Hideo Nakata has forever burnt his name into movie history courtesy of his genre-defining adaptation of the Koji Suzuki novel Ring. In the process, he launched Asian horror onto the international scene and - unfortunately - also inadvertently paved the way for numerous Hollywood remakes. Whilst he would later sabotage his own introduction to Hollywood by helming the awful sequel to the remake of Ring (are you keeping up at home?), other works such as his Death Note prequel, L: Change The World and another Koji Suzuki adaptation, Dark Water, would ensure his stocks remained high in his homeland.
In between these, Nakata directed something of a period horror flick in Kaidan, a story steeped in traditional folk tales. It tells of the young son of a samurai, Shinkichi (Kikunosuke Onoe V), who falls in love with a wealthy singing teacher, Toyoshiga (Hitomi Kuroki), not realising that in doing so they are both compounding a curse between the families.
One thing leads to another, as they tend to do, and Shinkichi soon finds himself locked into a doomed spiral of relationships that always seem to end up with him being haunted by a pissed-off ghost.
Kaidan is structured almost as a fable, revealing a progression of events dictated both by fate and by the actions of Shinkichi. And therein lies one of the key problems of the movie.
Kikunosuke Onoe V is an actor steeped in the tradition of Kabuki, and his almost feminine grace ends an otherworldy feel to Shinkichi. But the actions of the character are so frequently selfish and poorly thought out that any audience sympathy for him is lost fairly early on. This lends a detached feel to proceedings and robs the film of any kind of intensity.
Nakata throws a few of his trademark modern jump-scares into the more lyrical structure, but this adds only mild spice to a film that remains emotionally uninvolving despite excellent technical work across the board. Even the mass-slaughter finale does not excite - although is well-shot and well-acted - due to the actions of the lead character in getting there. Despite the various traumas he falls into it is hard not to think that, well, he pretty much deserved everything he got. But perhaps this is the point; having the piece as a morality play. Such knowledge, however, does not succeed in making the movie any more engaging.
The result is one of the lesser entries in the Hideo Nakata pantheon and certainly not in the league of older traditional Japanese horror movies like Onibaba. But, hey, at least it's better than The Ring 2...
DIRECTOR(S): Hideo Nakata | COUNTRY: Japan | YEAR 2007 | DISTRIBUTOR(S): Madman | RUNNING TIME: 115 minutes | ASPECT RATIO: 16:9 Anamorphic | REGION: 4 | DISCS: 1
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