Director – Kiyoshi Kurosawa – 2016 – Japan – Cert. 15 – 130m
The following review originally appeared in Funimation UK.
Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s new crime thriller Creepy draws on Vertigo, Psycho and Audition.
The latest film by Kiyoshi Kurosawa to receive a UK cinema release is an extraordinary and highly original crime thriller with more than a passing nod to two better known Alfred Hitchcock films. Its opening reworks that of Vertigo (1958) while certain later narrative elements owe much to Psycho (1960) although not the parts of that film which are usually aped or recycled in other movies. It also recalls Takashi Miike’s notorious Audition (1999) in its overall structure. Yet despite these clear influences, Creepy is very much its own film.
Vertigo‘s first scene opens with the rung of a ladder grasped moments afterwards by a human hand. This develops into a chase sequence in which the vertigo of Detective ‘Scottie’ Ferguson (James Stewart) causes a cop to fall to his death. Creepy‘s first scene opens with bars over a window. A man comes to stand in front of these to engage in conversation with another who is initially offscreen. The room turns out to be a police interrogation room, the first man a multiple murder suspect and the second Detective Takakura (Hidetoshi Nishijima).
During a break Takakura leaves the room to discuss the case with Detective Nogami (Masahiro Higashide) in the corridor. Then he notices the room’s door swinging open. Inside an officer lies in a pool of blood. The suspect has gone.
The controlled calm of the station corridors’ white walls, grey woodwork and black furnishings explodes into a panicked frenzy as the policemen try to find the missing man. They locate him halfway up a stairwell holding a cutlery fork to a woman’s throat. Takakura tries to negotiate with the suspect but being unduly trusting gets quite literally stabbed in the back while the woman gets killed.
The next scene in Creepy sees the disgraced and now off the force Takakura at home his wife Yasuko (Yuko Takeuchi). This too recalls Vertigo where a similar second scene involves Scottie at the apartment of his on/off girlfriend although in Creepy the couple have moved in to a new neighbourhood and are unpacking.
Just as Scottie’s vertigo will get him into trouble, so will Takakura and Yasuko’s overly trusting nature. They decide to introduce themselves to the neighbours but one woman doesn’t want to have anything to do with them while the Nishino family is out. Behind the Nishinos’ entryphoned gate the wind blows ominously through the trees.
From here the narrative splits into two to follow both members of the couple separately. Takakura has taken up a position at the local university teaching students about serial killers and psychological profiling. Together with Nogami by way of extracurricular activity he starts looking into an unsolved murder case and with further echoes of Scottie in Vertigo obsessively pursues a woman.
Saki Honda (Haruna Kawaguchi) is the sole person whose current whereabouts are known in an unsolved missing persons case in which her family (father, mother, brother) vanished mysteriously. Takakura believes her memories may hold the key to the mystery just as Scottie does of Madeleine (Kim Novak) in Vertigo.
Meanwhile Yasuko makes contact with and subsequently gets to know the eponymously creepy Mr. Nishino (Teruyuki Kagawa) and his seemingly better adjusted schoolgirl daughter Mio (Ryoko Fujino). Unlike the unfolding linear narrative of the unsolved missing persons mystery the parallel narrative of Yasuko’s relationship with Nishima reveals itself in fits, starts and hints so that we’re not always entirely clear what’s going on between the two characters.
A scene in the street for instance has her trying to break free of the psychological hold he appears to exert upon her. Mio may be in a similar position when she collars Takakura in the street to explain that her father “is not really my father”.
Explosive opening notwithstanding the whole thing follows Audition‘s template of a gentle fable about traumatised people rebuilding their lives via new relationships until devastating revelations suddenly catapult them towards a terrible fate. Nishino’s locked gate and ominous trees beyond suggest appalling events may be taking place in his home just as may previously have occurred in the former Honda home.
As if to underscore this possibility the little group of houses in which the Takakuras and the Nishinos now live has a similar layout to that from which the Honda family went missing.
Suddenly we’re in Psycho territory where mother’s house on the hill behind the motel harbours unspeakable secrets. In Creepy the mystery house is two separate yet somehow linked houses. When Detective Nogami finally leaves the daylight to explore the dark interior of the former Honda home what he finds inside resolves the Honda case. This sequence recalls nothing so much as Psycho’s exploration of mother’s house looking for clues.
In Creepy‘s parallel plot strand the interior of the current Nishino house is introduced over several scenes and exudes an increasing sense of dread the more we see of it. When Yasuko first gets past the front door she loses her nerve in the normal looking hallway, makes her excuses and leaves. The rest of the house when we finally see it is far from normal however to give more away would ruin the film for the first time viewer.
This fiendishly clever and highly provocative little crime thriller may in retrospect prove a milestone in Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s career. Creepy delivers in its own right, but viewers familiar with Vertigo, Psycho or Audition will find its resonances with those films adding to their viewing pleasure.
Creepy is released in the UK & Ireland on 25 November 2016.
It also plays in the London Film Festival on 8 and 9 October 2016.
The above review originally appeared in Funimation UK to coincide with the film’s 2016 release.