Commentary on Movies and TV by Brian Holcomb

Monday, October 26, 2009


by Brian Holcomb

Known as “Rinne” in Japan, “Reincarnation” is the film Shimizu made after the incredible “Marebito”, and before production commenced on the Japanese “Ju-on 3″ and, I would wager, the American “Grudge 3″. Shimizu is an enigma to me, a filmmaker who is quite talented and yet seems to be both driven and repelled by the motion picture factory mentality. While “Marebito” was definitely a change of pace for Shimizu, “Reincarnation” is back to his J-horror roots of long black hair and vengeful ghosts. But it’s once again what Shimizu does with the material that distinguishes it from the rest, not the trite material itself.

I also think Shimizu set out to make a film that was more in line with a Hitchcockian thriller than a full blooded horror film, so those expecting a terrifying movie will be disappointed. The score and credits sequence more than merely reference Bernard Herrmann and Hitchcock; the animation of the credits is clearly inspired by the work of Saul Bass, Hitch’s title designer on films like “Vertigo” and “Psycho”, who created abstract patterns onscreen that somehow distilled the themes of the story.

The story of “Reincarnation” is another contrived piece of “Shimizuscript”, in which two separate yet related storylines come closer and closer together as the film progresses. The fascinating element of this picture revolves around its spin on “The Shining”, with 11 people murdered at a mountainside hotel in the 1970s by a deranged Professor who filmed the whole thing with an 8mm camera. Years later, a self important film director, Matsumura (Kippei Shiina), brings a cast and crew to the hotel to work on his own fictional film about the murders, and casts a timid young actress, Sugiura (Yuka), in the lead role of the professor’s young daughter.

Sugiura has all kinds of visions and nightmares and begins to feel that she is the reincarnation of the professor’s daughter in real life. She finds herself “Phantasm”-like, moving from one state of reality to another, from dreams to visions to scenes she plays in the movie within the movie to flashbacks to the past. In a parallel narrative, a college student is suffering her own sense of deja vu, and with the help of an occult-wise actress, tries to find out her own connection to the hotel’s past.
The brilliance here is not in the day old plot, but in the way Shimizu moves the differing strands of reality closer and closer as the movie comes to its climax. In the last ten minutes, we watch Sugiura play the professor’s daughter in a scene while she “sees” events playing back from the past in visions. Meanwhile, Sugiura’s agent is watching the killer’s actual 8mm footage of the murders, and this is cross cut with the other action to create a sense of reality on top of reality as it all begins to bleed into one another. At the end, we are shown perhaps the creepiest “living doll” ever filmed.

I have to applaud Shimizu’s clever resurrection of the “rubber reality” movie so popular in the 1980’s, following the release of Wes Craven’s “A Nightmare on Elm Street”. Shimizu’s direction is so assured that he is able to fully integrate a “Dawn of the Dead” reference without a blink
“Reincarnation” was probably the best of the three I saw at “Horror Fest”, and the one most deserving of a theatrical release.


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