While remaining committed to the horror genre, Nick Cheung’s second outing as director is a huge improvement on 2013’s Hungry Ghost Ritual. Again casting himself in the lead, Cheung this time leaves writing duties to Yeung Sin Ling (Inner Senses, The Bullet Vanishes) to tell the story of an exorcist, whose unconventional methods attract the attentions of a spunky young journalist and a murderous demon. Complemented by rich production values, lively performances and an inventive screenplay, Keeper Of Darkness succeeds as detective story, spectral romance and even streetwise comedy, while resuscitating our confidence in Cheung as the new renaissance man of Hong Kong Cinema.
Hong Kong audiences will be forgiven for not remembering Contracted, Eric England’s nasty little body horror that came and went from local cinemas in the blink of a pus-filled eye last Christmas. A strong central performance from Najarra Townsend and a smartly plotted script helped it stand out in an increasingly crowded indie horror marketplace, but the same cannot be said for this largely unnecessary sequel.
In his best performance of the post-Governator era, Arnold Schwarzenegger stars as the protective father of a teenage girl dying from an incurable virus, in a film that eschews traditional zombie movie expectations in favour of a more character-driven drama.
Kubo (Ai Hashimoto) is a young university who lives alone in a small apartment. While studying alone at night, she hears an unusual sound, like a scraping noise, emerge from her bedroom. When she looks, nothing is there. Though when she turns away, the sound returns. Troubled by this, she writes to a famous author (Yuko Takeuchi), who collects stories such as this. As the two investigate, it appears there is no reason for the apartment to be haunted, no recent history of traumatic events. But, further investigation reveals others suffering from similar hauntings and a remarkable, tragic story that connects the experiences.
The Inerasable is adapted from an acclaimed novel by Fuyumi Ono. From it, director Yoshihiro Nakamura has managed to create a remarkable piece of horror cinema. As he two women research the events, we get story within story as the history of the land and the people who lived there is revealed. The tone is more creepy than scary, more old style unsettling than new school disturbing. If anything, the moments of outright horror almost feel unnecessary, like an excessive garnish on what is already a very appealing dish.
Takeuchi in particular, is brilliant as the unnamed author, who oscillates between the high drama of researching Kubo’s case and the more mundane experience of buying and building a new house with her husband. Of course, this act is no trivial thing, since in Japanese culture, the act of preparing land for a new dwelling, the Shinto groundbreaking ceremony that purifies the land, is essential.
The Inerasable is sharp piece of cinema, part old school ghost story, part crime procedural. The constantly inventive cinematography from Yukihiro Okimura helps to bring to life each era of the story as the film does its narrative archeology, digging through the way one generation’s evils inform and trouble the next. With assured direction and outstanding performances this is a different kind of horror film that could appeal to a broad range of film goers.
Arriving in perfect time for Halloween, Christopher Landon’s knowingly ridiculous horror comedy should play well to late-night crowds looking for a grotesque giggle. Part Superbad, part Shaun of the Dead, Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse is as much a teen comedy about acceptance and responsibility as it is about fending off undead hordes.