Reincarnation – Shimizu at his best

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MOVIE REVIEW

Reincarnation
Geneon, Nikkatsu, Oz & Toho Company, Japan
96 Min
1.85:1
Release (Japan): 7th January 2006

DIR Takashi Shimizu
EXEC Kazuya Hamana, Yasushi Kotani
PROD Takashige Ichise
SCR Takashi Shimizu, Masaki Adachi
DP Takahide Shibanushi
CAST Kippei Shiina, Tetta Sugimoto, Shun Oguri, Marika Matsumoto, Mantarô Koichi

Populated with ghosts, unnerving children, an abandoned hotel, the creepiest doll I’ve ever seen and an all round unsettling atmosphere, Shimizu Takashi’s Reincarnation is J-horror convention that crawls under the skin.

Director Shimizu is widely renowned for creating gritty tension and captivating audiences worldwide with his film Ju-on: The Grudge (which inspired a slew of Hollywood remakes successfully helmed by the man himself), so viewers would most likely expect his over-familiar style here. However, Shimizu’s Reincarnation is not a just a mystical whodunit, it’s a widely atmospheric psychological thriller that oozes an unaccustomed bravura and plunges the viewer deep into an expertly crafted chasm of horror.

Shimizu is clearly influenced by George A. Romero (Dawn of the Dead) as walking zombies infiltrate a later scene in the movie. However, Shimizu is able to intricate this reference with such originality that many wouldn’t blink an eye. There is also a spin-off on Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, as the hotel is reminiscent of a location struggling to extricate itself from a dark past. In this film, eleven people were murdered at the hotel in 1970 by an old professor who filmed the whole thing with a 8mm camera. It is this event that film director, Matsumara, (Kippei Shiina) wants to create, and casts Sigiura (Yuka) as timid young girl in the lead role of the professor’s daughter.

I feel that Shimizu is also trying to recreate a Hitchcockian thriller with this film. He draws on two different strands of reality and brings them closer and closer to one another until the climax. At which point, reality has bled so innately into one another, the audience can only be left startled. One could also draw similarities between Hitchcock’s scores and title sequences. For example, in Physco and Vertigo, the abstract and delirious title sequences by Saul Bass are almost identical in style to Shimizu’s. The much alarming and distressing scores of Bernard Herrmann’s (Hitchcock’s regular composer) are similar to Kenji Kawai’s in Reincarnation.

Sigiura has all kinds of vivid and wild visions throughout the movie. She finds herself stuck between reality, unsure of what is a nightmare, or a scene in the movie, or ‘the real’. It is very cleverly depicted and Shimizu never loses us in his twisted narrative and what’s more, he leaves a twist that not even the seasoned J-horror fans would have seen coming!

Shimizu is a truly great horror director and this is a very good instance of that. But, be prepared to face what might just classify as the creepiest ‘living’ doll ever filmed!

4/5 stars.

Watch the trailer below.

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