Kiyoshi Kurosawa/ Japan/ 2001/ 118 mins
Available on dual-format Blu-ray/ DVD now.
Any film that deals with the internet in its early days tends to suffer from being a little dated. In a time when tweets and pokes had entirely different associations before social media and you could spend a good ten minutes listening to your router connecting to the internet, some filmmakers delved into the world of the World Wide Web with mixed results. And so, we have a look back at this supernatural curio from Japanese director Kiyoshi Kurosawa as it is released on a special edition Blu-ray . This is a philosophical tale with tropes of sci-fi apocalypse which whilst not being entirely successful, certainly stands up well compared to the dire Hollywood fare such as Hackers or The Net that flirted with similar internet-focused material.
In a world where people are becoming obsessed with their computers, lonely individuals are being offered the opportunity to meet a ghost. The result of which is causing mass suicide. The film follows a group of colleagues at a plant shop who are each gradually becoming involved in this phenomenon whilst investigating the recent death of a friend. Running alongside this story is a tale of a student who is also becoming aware of the strange spectacle that eventually causes a major apocalyptic disaster.
Tinged with the creepy atmosphere so very well designed by the J-Horror genre, the film is a little more arty and philosophical than the usual “ghost seeking vengeance” tale that works to successful effect in the popular Ringu and The Grudge series. The visual effects, of what there are, are very well done for the films relatively low budget. As individuals fall into the spirit world they leave a shadow on the wall. It’s an unsettling image. Director Kurosawa has the perfect eye for creating a scary set-piece and one moment where a ghost corners a protagonist is terrifying by just seeing it from behind the action. Despite an intriguing set-up however the film drags to the point of boredom. Dialogue is a little off-key and the story does get a little muddled within the grand scope it attempts. Perhaps in the new golden age of television the story would do well with being fleshed out a bit more over a ten-part miniseries remake. Whatever you do though, avoid the 2006 Hollywood remake.