New Horror Releases: Creepy (2017) - Reviewed

Sometimes the scariest truth is not the apparent evil in front of us, but the personal tragedies we don't see coming until it is far too late.  Japanese auteur Kiyoshi Kurosawa's latest film, Creepy, is a lethargic serial killer procedural that plumbs the depths of marital despair and personal upheaval. A meticulous combination of Kurosawa's trademark aesthetics and uncomfortable discourse are interwoven to create an unwavering sense of palpable dread which drips into the viewer's subconscious until the unsettling watershed of the finale.  

After an act of arrogance leads to tragic consequences, a seasoned profiler retires from the force and becomes a criminal psychology professor.  His old partner draws him back in via an investigation into a missing family that may, or may not, be linked to his extremely bizarre neighbor.  The setup appears pedantic, but Creepy is a film with far darker motivations.  Kurosawa and Chihiri Ikeda's dense script is filled with brooding metaphors and awkward dialogue, whose ultimate purpose is the film's best surprise.  Fans of Kurosawa's more esoteric film Cure may consider Creepy's mundane reveal to be a letdown; however, the contrast between the two is not as intense as it initially appears. 

While Cure's occult edge infuses the film with uncertainty and dread, Creepy plays on the idea of complacency by way of obsession in structuring its narrative in a purposefully (even painfully) slow presentation to ensure the payoff has the maximum amount of resonance.  Well-meaning Samaritans can lose their course, wandering off the map of good intentions into the labyrinths of personal fixation.

Hmmmmm. Great question. Let me think on that for a few. 

Hidetoshi Nishijima stars as the troubled detective, and he is the center around which the other players revolve. His transition in the final act initially seems odd, almost implausible, but this is part of Kurosawa's game.  In hindsight, this is the man who was there at the start, but he has finally learned from his colossal mistakes and may survive to make things right. His stilted chemistry with his wife, played by Yuko Takeuchi, is another piece of the conundrum, with Takeuchi harnessing every possible emotion of marital distress with a single glance.  Ryoko Fujino's turn as the neighbor's daughter serves as the tipping of the scales.  It is her frightened, almost primal delivery of a single line of dialogue that woefully reminds the viewer things are going to go from bad to worse in Kurosawa's dangerous world.  

Haruna Kawaguchi has an interesting role as the only remaining member of a missing family that is that film's central mystery.  Her scenes with Nishijima are intense and surpass the usual uncooperative witness routine due to the authenticity of both actors. However, all of these performances are dwarfed by Teruyuki Kagawa's brilliant turn as the mysterious neighbor, Nishino.  Initially he seems harmlessly odd, with wide-eyed delivery and unusual mannerisms, and this continues to intensify as Kurosawa loosens his restraints and allows Kagawa to present Nishino as his own polluted vision. The result is repulsive in all the right ways.    

Creepy is a story about illusions.  The pacing is slow and deliberate, just like the villain at its heart.  From the specters of abandoned houses to the veins of the addicted, danger is everywhere, yet all of the characters seemingly ignore the warning signs in pursuit of their personal agendas.  This is symbolic of the ignorance in which we sometimes enshroud ourselves as a curative means to avoid the end of a relationship or health problems.  The air of deception is given form by Akiko Ashizawa's whispered cinematography.  A lonely breeze blows through the front yard of an ominous house while emerald trees shiver in the sunlight.  Light refracts off of a vacuum sealed corpse as it is lowered into the abyss.  The angular construction of Japanese single family homes are used against the viewer, obscuring any form of sanctuary while ensuring that unrepentant malice lies in wait behind every door.  

This hallway makes me sad. 

Available now for digital rental, Creepy is a near masterpiece.  There are some slight pacing issues and the reveal may be a letdown to those who are experienced with Kurosawa's particular brand of horror.  The film's resolution feels slightly out of place and this may be a turn off, but as the sum of its many accursed parts, Creepy works on virtually every level, ending with a quiet bang and the notion that despite ourselves, sometimes we can make a change for the better. 
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-Kyle Jonathan