Tuesday, April 25, 2006

REINCARNATION: Rehashed and Recycled

(Japanese horror)
Time: 95 mins
Rating: * *
The child victim and her doll
PICTURE this plot scenario: In 1970, a college professor went on a suicide rampage at a hotel near Tokyo and killed 11 people, including his wife and daughter. While his victims ran for their lives, the killer recorded the acts on an 8mm cine-camera — just like a typical Japanese tourist.

Needless to say, this tragedy shocked the nation and was widely reported in the media. Now, 35 years later, director Ikuo Matsumara (Kippei Shiina) is planning a movie on the multiple murders at the Ono Kanto Hotel and is calling for auditions. However, even as the news of Matsumara’s upcoming film is announced on the radio, several people, from schoolgirls to truck drivers, start seeing ghosts all over the place.

Have the ghosts of the hotel victims been let loose in Tokyo by news of the new film? Are these spirits out for revenge? Not likely. These ‘hauntings’ are writer-director Takashi Shimizu’s ‘scatter-shot scares’ to work up our interest during the opening sequence of Rinne or Reincarnation. Shimizu, who rose to international fame with his Ju-on or The Grudge series (which was recycled by Hollywood), has latched on to the idea of reincarnation for his latest horror flicks. Trouble is, there isn’t much inspiration here and after the opening sequences, the movie goes downhill all the way.

No doubt, he has created the right atmosphere and mood in the dilapidated suburban hotel — but the scares are few and repetitive. The movie’s protagonist is a novice actress named Nagisa Sugiura (Yuka) who is picked to play the murderer’s pre-teen daughter, Chisato. This role is rewritten to accommodate the fact that Sugiura is now a grown-up woman, suggesting that she may be the reincarnation of the young victim.

During pre-production shooting at the Ono Kanto Hotel, Sugiura starts having fainting spells and visions of herself being chased by a knife-wielding man through the corridors of the hotel. She even sees little Chisato’s favourite doll which was reportedly carried wherever the girl went. And one night, Sugiura finds the 8mm camera used by the professor in her bed!Since objects like cameras do not reincarnate, this brings up questions about the credibility of Shimizu’s plot — or the efficiency of Tokyo police regarding the collection of evidence.

No, Shimizu does not seem to be bothered by such details. Like in his previous efforts, he is only interested in generating scares and the supernatural twist at the end seems rather obvious. The big question is: Would Hollywood really want to recycle this mediocre yarn?


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