Starring Masami Nagasawa, Ryûhei Matsuda, Hiroki Hasegawa
Written by Kiyoshi Kurosawa
Directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa
During the J-horror rampage of the late 90’s and early 2000’s, Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Kairo (aka Pulse). A dark, depressing, and morose tale of ghosts that use the internet to spread across the world, the film’s almost suffocatingly gloomy atmosphere pervaded across every frame of the film. Because of my love of this film, I was eager to see the director’s upcoming movie Sanpo Suru Shinryakusha (aka Before We Vanish), which follows three aliens who recently arrived on Earth and are preparing to bring about an alien invasion that will wipe humanity from the face of the planet. Imagine my surprise when the film turned out to be barely a horror title but was instead a quirky and surreal dramedy that tugged at my heartstrings.
Admittedly, I was thrown completely for a loop as the film begins with a scene that feels perfectly at home in a horror film. Akira (Tsunematsu), a teenage girl, goes home and we enter moments later to blood splashed on the walls and floor and bodies strewn about. However, the disturbing visuals are spun around as the young girl walks down a highway, her clothes and face streaked with blood, Yusuke Hayashi’s music taking on a lighthearted, almost jaunty attitude. From there, we learn of the other two aliens (yes, she’s an alien and it’s not a secret or a twist, so no spoilers there): Amano (Takasugi), who is a young man that convinces a sleazy reporter, Sakurai (Hasegawa), of his true form and tasks Sakurai with being his guide, and Shinji (Matsuda), the estranged husband of Narumi (Nagasawa).
What sets these aliens, and their mission, apart from other invasion thrillers is their means of gathering information. They’re not interested in meeting leaders nor do they capture people for nefarious experimentations. Rather, they steal “concepts” from the minds of people, such as “family”, “possession”, or “pest”. Once these concepts are taken, the victim no longer has that value in their mind, freed from its constraints.
While this may seem like a form of brainwashing, Kurosawa instead plays with the idea that maybe knowing too much is what holds us back from true happiness. A man obsessed with staking claim to his family home learns to see the world outside of its walls when “possession” is no longer a part of his life. A touchy boss enters a state of child-like glee after “work” has been taken. That being said, there are other victims who are left as little more than husks.
Overly long at 130 minutes, the film does take its time showing the differences between the aliens and their individual behaviors. Amano and Akira are casually ruthless, willing to do whatever it takes to send a beacon to begin the alien invasion, no matter how many must die along the way, while Shinji is the curious and almost open-minded one, whose personal journey finds him at one point asking a priest to envision and describe “love”, a concept that is so individualistic and personal that it can’t be taken, much less fathomed, by this alien being. While many of these scenes are necessary, they could have easily been edited down to shave 10-15 minutes, making the film flow a bit more smoothly.
While the film begins on a dark note, there is a scene in the third act that is so pure and moving that tears immediately filled my eyes and I choked up a little. It’s a moment of both sacrifice and understanding, one that brings a recurring thread in the story full circle.
With every passing minute, Before We Vanish makes it clear that it’s much more horror-adjacent than horror. An alien invasion thriller with ultimate stakes, it will certainly have appeal to genre fans. That being said, those who go in expecting action, violence, and terror will certainly be disappointed. But those whose mind is a bit more open to a wider range of possibilities will find a delightful story that attempts to find out what it means to be human, even if we have to learn the lesson from an alien.
Before We Vanish is a beautiful, wonderful tale that explores what it means to be human when faced with the threat of extinction.
Join the Box of Dread Mailing List
Jim Jarmusch Zombie Movie THE DEAD DON’T DIE With Bill Murray Now Filming
FOX’s THE EXORCIST Season One and Two Now Available on DVD
PATIENT ZERO Starring Smith, Dormer, and Tucci Gets Release Info
Blomkamp Assures Us ROBOCOP RETURNS Will Be Hard R
Would Neve Campbell Return for more SCREAM?
Producer Shares First IT CHAPTER TWO Behind the Scenes Pic
Stephen King’s PET SEMATARY Remake Casts New Gage and Ellie Creed
INCIDENT IN A GHOSTLAND Review – Cruel, Mean, and Ugly With Little to Offer
Interview: Rotimi Paul on playing Skeletor in THE FIRST PURGE
24-Hour Joe Bob Briggs Marathon Hits Shudder Friday the 13th
The Children Cry Out for THE CURSE OF LA LLORONA
OFFICE UPRISING – Exclusive Clip Gets the Bugs Out
Gunship Announce New Album: Release Video Feat. THE LOST BOYS’ Sexy Sax Man Tim Cappello
FrightFest 2018: Exclusive BLACK SITE Trailer Mixes Carpenter and Lovecraft With Martial Arts
GRIMM’S WAR Looking to Raise the Bar for Interactive Gaming and Web Series
News4 days ago
BREAKING: Neill Blomkamp Directing ROBOCOP RETURNS!
News5 days ago
SCUM Is An Insane Game Made By Croatian Madmen
News4 days ago
Must-See Art: Jason Beck’s MUPPET MANIACS
News5 days ago
Hulu’s CASTLE ROCK Trailer is Pure Stephen King Terror
News6 days ago
Interview: Mick Garris Dreams of NIGHTMARE CINEMA
News5 days ago
Zombie Reveals THREE FROM HELL Captain Spaulding Poster
Reviews4 days ago
BIG LEGEND Review – Big Feet, Little Scares
News5 days ago
Fantasia 2018: Becky’s Ten Most Anticipated Genre Films