Infection (DVD)

Starring Michiko Hada, Mari Hoshino, Tae Kimura, Yoko Maki

Directed by Masayuki Ochiai

Released by Lionsgate

Hospitals. Nobody likes ’em. It could be the threat of pain or the horror of malpractice. It may be the air of sickness or just that cold, creepy, sterile atmosphere. Whatever the reason, everyone has something to fear, and it’s with this in mind that Infection, the latest effort from horror mega-producer Takashige (Ring) Ichise, targets its audience.

This is the first title in Ichise’s ambitious “J-Horror Theater” project, a series of six films designed to keep Japan at the forefront of fear. Set entirely in a dilapidated hospital, Infection follows a skeleton crew of medical practitioners as they try and keep the place up to task. The patients keep rolling in, but there are a limited number of rooms. Medicine is scarce. Egocentric doctors spend most of their time squabbling. An inexperienced nurse shakes whenever she holds a syringe. The bed-ridden patients are understandably freaked. To make matters worse, the building is undergoing renovations, and everything seems to be falling apart. This place would send Dr. Giggles away screaming.

During a particularly stressful evening a crisis erupts when one of the patients dies of negligence. Instead of facing the consequences, the frightened staff members decide to cover the whole thing up and continue with their work. Shortly afterwards, a decomposed corpse appears at the hospital and unleashes an infectious disease. The mysterious green virus causes nightmarish visions and insanity, followed by an unpleasant gooey demise. One by one, it begins to infect the staff as their shaky world descends into total chaos.

Before you shout Cabin Fever, know that this is a different beast entirely. Director Masayuki (Hypnosis) Ochiai opts to play it straight and creates a film that is both darker and more psychological than Eli Roth’s backwoods quirk-fest. And while this concept may sound hokey and overused, Ochiai backs it up with an intelligent script, involving characters, and a wicked style.

Infection also deviates from the subtle side of Asian horror. This is a movie that goes straight for the jugular and delivers its share of squirm-inducing moments. Thankfully, the visceral approach doesn’t seem overblown, and the film does an admirable job of capturing the unpleasant sights and sounds of a medical nightmare. This is freaky, freaky shit.

It’s been a lackluster year for the genre, but as usual, fans need only look toward the video store (just don’t expect any features beyond a few trailers.) Infection gets under your skin more than any horror movie in recent memory.

Infection (2004)
(Lion Gate Films Home Entertainment)
Directed by Masayuki Ochiai
Starring Michiko Hada, Mari Hoshino, Tae Kimura, Yôko Maki, Kaho Minami, Moro Morooka, Shirô Sano, Kôichi Satô, Masanobu Takashima

Special Features

4 out of 5

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Steve Barton

You're such an inspiration for the ways that I will never, ever choose to be.

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