Directed by Takashi Shimizu
If this review of Takashi Shimizu’s Reincarnation ends up seeming scatterbrained and nonsensical, don’t blame me, I’m just trying to get it all down while it still kind of makes sense. J-Horror has definitely been known to worry more about evoking fear than closing pesky plot loops, but Reincarnation goes one step further and all but abandons the idea of making any narrative sense. That said, the film does have some creepy moments, a genuinely original concept, and the best stop-motion killer doll since, well, Stuart Gordon’s Dolls.
The premise of the film is that big-time Japanese director Matsumura is making a horror film about a real life mass murder that took place in a nearby Osaka hotel. He casts fresh young actress Suguira as the female lead and final victim. As soon as Suguira joins the cast, she begins experiencing memories of the night of the murders, as if she had lived through the events herself. When the title of a film is Reincarnation, well, you just know there’s a pretty good chance she was involved in a past life. But which victim was she, or was she even a victim at all?
Reincarnation has a pretty good twist ending so much more in the way of plot synopsis would spoil the fun. It is worth mentioning that there are lots of wide-eyed creepy kids, blue-hued ghosts, and a few good jump scares. For those of you that aren’t completely sick of the J-Horror clichés, you’ll find they reoccur often throughout Reincarnation.
Due to the familiarity of these elements, the first two thirds of the film is pretty standard and more than a little dull. The audience I saw it with was definitely losing patience with the repetitive cycle consisting of: plot snippet – creepy kid – boo scare. This formula makes up the bulk of the film and, given the potentially confusing ending, may not be worth enduring for some viewers.
On a positive note the most impressive aspect of the film is that the extremely convoluted final act has virtually no dialogue, which requires Shimizu to tell his story visually without exposition. This results in an almost experimental feel to the last part of the film that nearly redeems the dull beginning.
Despite the early part of the film’s adherence to J-Horror tropes, a few significant nods to Western genre classics like Peeping Tom and The Changeling, coupled with the hallucinatory, yet oddly satisfying ending, combine to distinguish Reincarnation from its waning J-Horror roots. While it would be going too far to call Reincarnation a rebirth of new Japanese horror, it would be accurate to say that Shimizu’s film also isn’t a clone of his previous Ju-On efforts.
3 out of 5