I’m not sure what November is for this year beyond crossing off subtitled films from the watchlist, with a special focus on Japan and Korea. Though, like most rules on the Blog Collab, this one feels destined to be broken. If, coincidentally, we happen to be extending Horror Month at the same time, so be it.
Following the discovery of a mysterious disk, a young woman in Tokyo tries to understand the strange behavior and disappearances of those around her.
When she doesn’t hear from coworker Taguchi for over a week, caring Michi begins to worry. Taguchi has been working on a disk for…work reasons? You’ll appreciate my confusion as their employer is a house plant shop, though things like providing detail and making sense aren’t necessarily the top priorities of this film.
After Michi finds Taguchi at home in his apartment, she breathes a small sight of relief, only to watch in horror as her coworker hangs himself abruptly. Apparently the disk is extremely important, as Michi, despite her trauma, makes sure coworker Yabe receives it. As they investigate the disk’s contents with their fellow plant shop employee Junco, something doesn’t seem right, and the images are downright creepy and confusing.
Meanwhile, computer science student Ryosuke is using a disk to install the internet, but encounters some unexpected errors. As part of the install experience, Ryosuke sees footage of ghostly figures who seem to watch him from the other side of the screen. Ostensibly asking for a friend, he asks grad student Harue how one would theoretically capture images on a computer that may be haunted. Armed with his newly acquired knowledge of the print screen key, Ryosuke prepares to return to the cyber world.
Around the same time, Yabe receives a call from a robotic voice asking for help, then disappears. When he returns to work, Yabe is acting all kinds of odd, insisting that he’s seen a horrible face. Michi tries to help her friend despite some dissuasion from her boss, but all she manages to do is learn that Yabe has gone into the forbidden room…an experience he does not recommend.
As Michi encounters increasingly harrowing events, Ryosuke works with Harue to investigate her theory that ghosts cross back to our realm through technology. Those who know attempt to seal off haunted portals with red tape, but these barriers can easily be overcome. It seems Michi and Ryosuke’s paths must eventually cross, but not before quite a lot of ghostly encounters, existential crises, and reflections on the futility of seeking connection. You know…your typical horror fare.
3.5/5 Pink Panther Heads
There are a lot of elements of this film that don’t make much sense to me, but I will say it’s highly effective in terms of creep factor. Things can shift quite abruptly from an ominous feeling of dread to terrifying scenes. Credit to whoever decided blocking out sound except for an awful whisper was the way to go in a few of the film’s scenes, as these really get under my skin.
I do appreciate that the film has a message here, focusing on themes that perceptively relate to technology and isolation, as well as the haunted history of Japan in WWII. In the film, characters who become victims of the ghostly figures disappear entirely, only their shadows remaining. To me, these themes are linked, as the erasure of the past is a necessary consequence of technology taking control of the future and separating people from each other and their shared experiences.
That being said, at certain points I lost the thread. The film is concerned with ideas, which makes it right at home on the Collab. However, the commitment to theme over plot detail is at times a drawback, and the last half hour or so feels a bit rushed and disjointed to me. It takes quite a long time for the two distinct story lines to merge, and this isn’t the most effective approach in my opinion. Though it’s not really the point of our story, I don’t think we get a satisfactory explanation for why any of the events unfold as they do, or how the ghostly figures are connected to the characters’ deaths. Are we meant to accept that ghosts are there to freak people out and make them think of death…because they’re ghosts?
At the end of the day, I will applaud this one for being extremely unsettling and creepy–exactly as a ghost story should be.