After a trip to CEX, I came away with this little curio, Marebito. It was directed by Takashi Shimizu, who also directed the rather good Ju-On. So for £5, I thought ‘What a bargain!’ I expected something along the lines of Audition, with the woman exacting terrible revenge on ‘man’ as a whole. However, what I received was one of the most peculiar films I’ve seen for a while…a horror in the Lovecraftian sense of the word.
We follow a man, Masuoka, who constantly records his daily life (played by Shinya Tsukamoto, who directed the brilliant surreal terror Tetsuo: the Iron Man), and one day he happens to record a suicide in a Tokyo subway. The look of terror in Arei Furoki’s eyes seduces Masuoka; he desperately wants to feel the absolute terror the man did before he plunged the knife into his eye. So, one day, with camera in tow, he ventures into the depths of Tokyo, and thus begins the complete insanity of this film…
Masuoka ends up in some sort of Lovecraftian vision, after talking with Furoki…post-suicide. Masuoka even evokes the great H.P. when he calls them “Mountains of Madness.” However, it’s not a creature of Hell he finds, but a beautiful young girl. He whisks her away to his everyday life, and then things increase in peculiarity. He discovers she only drinks blood, so begins a small killing spree. Of course, the Lovecraftian vision isn’t brought up for fun and giggles; we are meant to question the man’s sanity. Lovecraft’s beautiful books often mix madness with horror, questioning one at the expense of the other. In Marebito, for example, we see Masuoka throwing away a bottle of Prozac, refusing to be controlled by those pills. He sees the ‘dead’ (the suicide man) a couple of times, and we’re not even sure if the young girl is a creature from another world, his daughter (one of the people he murders professes to be his wife, who accuses him of taking their daughter), or a figment of his imagination.. Has he lost the plot, believing in gibberish like ‘Deros’ (detrimental robots) and the Hollow Earth Theory? That’s the main attraction of the film; the constant questions you will ask yourself during and after the film.
“They didn’t see something that terrified them. They saw something because they were terrified,” Masuoka says near the beginning of this twisted tale. He literally lives through his camera; recording his daily life, then reviewing it when he gets home. He spends hours looking at the eyes of the suicide man, and hours more looking at footage of ‘F’ (the young girl). There’s a glimpse of ‘Peeping Tom’ when he records the murders. For him, “reality” is not real to him; “reality” is just another image on the TV screen. His murders are no more real to him than Midsummer Murders. However, subconsciously, ‘reality bites,’ and this bloodlust drives him further into insanity. There’s nothing sympathetic about this character at all, and we learn almost nothing about him. That’s a small problem with the film; he’s unlikable, and he’s the main character! There is nothing redeeming about him, at all.
And what should we take from the title, Marebito? In Japanese folklore, it refers to a ‘divine being’ from afar that bringing gifts of wisdom, spiritual knowledge and happiness. The ‘suicide man’ tells Masuoka that fear is an ancient form of wisdom, one that humans lost a long time ago. The uncertainty of the entire film is the real horror here. In Ju-On, Shimizu made horror the main character. In Marebito, the horror isn’t a character as such, but the depths of Masuoka. It’s the horror of the psyche, one that can’t be answered or analysed.
Shimizu uses a grainy, digital camera that seduces the viewer, almost as a voyeur. It’s engrossing, and Masuoka’s psyche intrigues as much as it disgusts. The main problem with the film is that you can’t sympathise with him, in anyway. And he’s the main character! He’s just a weirdo. Marebito is an acquired taste. If you are expecting the typical Japanese horror film, then you will be disappointed. Be prepared for a mix of Japanese and Lovecraftian horror that is sometimes too peculiar for its own good. Definitely worth a watch, if only to see the more obscure side of Japanese horror.
VERDICT: 7/10. If you like anything Lovercraft related, check this out for a Japanese take on good old H.P. If not, check it out anyway: a film that you will either love or hate.