The Complex (Kuroyuri danchi)
Mundane ghost story from Hideo Nakata, director of Ringu and Dark Water
Ringu (The Ring) pretty much kick started the mainstream appetite for Asian horror single-handedly. It tapped into a new mythology of spirits and curses that hadn’t been explored in western cinema and the startling images of Japanese ghosts as brought to life by director Hideo Nakata (from a novel by Kôji Suzuki) were shockingly strange and other worldly. It felt like a new language for horror. As with any popular genre inferior films, sequels and American remakes flooded the market lessening the power of the first wave.
In Nakata’s latest horror Asuka (Atsuko Maeda) moves into a near-derelict housing complex and starts to hear strange noises at night from the apartment next door. Scratching, scrapping and alarms going off inexplicably at 5.30am. Of course we can’t delve too deeply into the plot as the twists, turns and revelations are integral to any shocks and chills; suffice it to say there are creepy kids, exorcisms and spectres.
Where Ringu was elegant in its simplicity, The Complex feels like several ghosts stories layered on top of one another. Even with all these elements the narrative feels slight (it could easily have lost 20 minutes). However Maeda is great in her lead role switching between vulnerable and unhinged; it’s beautifully shot, Nakata, once again teaming up with director of photography Jun’ichirô Hayashi, gets the most from his sickly urban locations but the lack of focus dilutes the impact. The final confrontation with the evil spirit in particular is too protracted, hysterical and OTT. The bottom line is that despite a strong opening act The Complex just isn’t very scary.