Doppelganger (DVD)

Starring Koji Yakusho, Hiromi Nagasaku, Yusuke Santamaria

Directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa

Released by Tartan Video

So first and foremost I must say this: Doppelganger is not a horror film. It might be a bit on the dark side, and there’s a good amount of morally reprehensible behavior that goes on within it, but one thing it is not is horror.

So why are we bothering to review it? Two reasons; it’s Tartan Video’s first DVD entrance onto American soil, a company that knows what it’s doing in our genre, and the other because it’s directed by Kyoshi Kurosawa, the director of such well-loved Asian horror classics Kairo and Cure.

Doppelganger deals with scientist Michio Hayasaki (Kurosawa regular Koji Yakusho), who’s stressing out to an extreme level about a new invention he’s working on that is supposed to help the disabled. So stressed, in fact that he actually splits in two. We don’t actually see this, mind you, he just starts noticing his doppelganger walking around, driving his car and just generally making his life even more uncomfortable.

A recent story about a man who killed himself after seeing his doppelganger doesn’t help to ease Hayasaki’s tension, so at first he just pretends that he doesn’t see the double. Eventually, though, the doppelganger starts to do things for him, things that will eventually only help to free him of his inhibitions and give him everything he wants…if he can stay out of jail.

It’s a very strange film, to say the least, and definitely a new direction for Kurosawa.

This being the first of two U.S. releases from Tartan Video, who have made quite a name for themselves overseas with things like the Ring trilogy, the disc will serve as an indication of what else they have in store for us, and it’s looking good so far.

Of course the film is presented in widescreen and 5.1 surround, always a beautiful thing. The menus are very well done nothing annoyingly flashy or tiem consuming, with some style that reflects the movie.

Extras on the disc include an all-too-brief interview with director Kurosawa, in which the emphasis is heavily upon his desire to make something outside of the horror genre and how he approached that in making the film. It seems like there was more to this than we’re seeing on the disc, but perhaps it was unusable for the disc, or part of a bigger interview that didn’t pertain to Doppelganger. There’s also a 20-minute “making of” featurette that comes across as very generic; the voiceover is monotone and droning, but the actual featurette itself shows all kinds of aspects of how the film came to be, from its inception to completion, with a focus on individual scenes here and there. Pretty good stuff, if not a bit on the dull side.

Other than that there are just some trailers for upcoming Tartan releases like Phone, Old Boy, and A Tale of Two Sisters, all of which I’ve seen and highly recommend you check out when they’re released. Overall a great way to introduce themselves into the U.S. market, even if they tout it as a horror film when it’s quite obviously not. I think you’ll enjoy it with that knowledge going into it more than I did, just because I kept waiting for something scary to happen. The DVD is just right, with enough background info on the film and its maker to give the viewer some much-needed insight.

3 1/2 out of 5

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Johnny Butane

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