Simple titles are lovely. Here we have Creepy, and it most certainly is. Kiyoshi Kurosawa returns to continue his recent streak of great films with an unsettling nightmare of a movie. Kurosawa’s career has been as broad and as challenging as Takashi Miike’s, and he is just as much as an acquired taste. That’s not to excuse any faults, but instead acknowledge that Kurosawa’s work can be deliberately spiteful at times. Creepy is not a film you enjoy, it’s a feeling you dread.
After making a wrong call involving an escaped sociopath, detective Takakura (Hidetoshi Nishijima), leaves the force to teach at a university. Takakura and his wife Yasuko (Yuko Takeuchi), move into a new house where they find some of the neighbours are rude, and one is Nishino (Teruyuki Kagawa), a creepy man who seems to live with his daughter Mio (Ryuko Fujino) and unseen wife. Takakura is soon approached by young detective Nogami (Masahiro Higashide), about looking into a local missing persons case from years before, where an entire family apart from a young daughter, Saki (Karuna Kawaguchi) vanished.
You may expect all the elements to soon intertwine and you’d be perfectly right in thinking so. It does nothing to deter from the sadistic enjoyment of proceedings however, as many questions start to be raised. Unlike many films where twists and expositions are shoved into final acts, Kurosawa reveals information at a perfect rate keeping the audience involved and invested. It’s a tight script that gives foundation to expertly crafted moments of unsettling calm. Creepy is hard to place, but lies somewhere between horror and thriller, with a heavy dose of drama thrown in.
Kurosawa is a master of restraint, captured by his soothing use of long takes and long shots. He doesn’t feel the need to interrupt the flow of a scene with a swift edit where one is not necessary. It allows for the film to pass you by serenely, as the actual content is what crawls under your skin, as opposed to production elements.
Performances are also allowed to shine in such a set-up. Nishijima shows great uncertainty and frustration between balancing his new life with an invasion from his old life, using skills he now questions to solve a case he can’t help but be intrigued by. Kagawa steals most of his scenes as a just as conflicted character, only it’s how he acts towards others that is inconsistent. One moment charm, another simple, then outright aggressive, and then suddenly odd. It’s a performance that in lesser hands would have seemed fragmented, but Kagawa uses a range of facial expressions and ticks to gradually link each bizarre persona.
Scary, bold, and rather nasty, Creepy is a film for when you want to experience that extra sense of darkness. Like a slow and painful death, the film constantly proceeds towards its frightful conclusion, but gives you enough time to contemplate on all the horror you see in front of you. A disturbing twist on a home invasion film, here the invasion is mental, for characters and the viewers, challenging and frustrating them in equal measure.
Creepy screens as part of this 2016’s Fantasia International Film Festival programme.
Find all our of Fantasia 2016 coverage here.