Starring Hidetoshi Nishijima, Yuko Takeuchi, Teruyuki Kagawa, Haruna Kawaguchi, Masahiro Higashide
Directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa
Screened at Fantasia 2016
For fear of being impolite, the people of Japan tend to be more standoffish and anti-social, especially when it comes to being neighborly in the suburbs where each individual or family exists privately on their own property. Most live in large apartment buildings and feel more comfortable in that type of living situation, which may offer a clue as to why so much J-horror takes place in an old home as seen in films like Ju-On.
Creepy, from director Kiyoshi Kurosawa of Pulse fame, highlights the suburban suspicion a couple develops as they move into a new neighborhood full of strange and unfriendly residents. Premiering at Fantasia International Film Festival, Creepy plays out like a crime thriller but turns much darker once the curtain is pulled back, uncovering a new chapter in a long forgotten mystery.
After retiring from the force after a traumatic stabbing at the hand of a serial killer, detective Takakura (Nishijima) moves away with his wife, Yasuko (Takeuchi), and begins teaching criminal psychology at the local university. Disrupting this new life, an old colleague asks for Takakura’s help with a cold case involving a missing family. Once he digs deeper, his old detective training kicks in, and Takakura begins drawing suspicions that may or may not be real. Does this case of a missing family disappearing from their home have a connection to his new neighborhood, or is Takakura’s growing uneasiness about his neighbor, Nishino (Kagawa), all in his head?
Undoubtedly, Nishino is incredibly creepy and inappropriate. He’s socially inept and does seem like he’s hiding something. Kagawa’s performance will raise the hair on the back of your neck, and his bizarre character is the main reason to give Creepy a chance as a horror fan. Nishino is unassuming but likes to play with being neighborly; then suddenly he is genuinely unnerving and rude, especially towards Takakura’s wife. Nishino’s daughter and her meek behavior also set off some alarm bells that Takakura tries to ignore at first.
As the film gets into gear, the direction from Kurosawa begins to come into play, reminding you why he is considered a legend of J-horror. The framing and theatricality shown in some sequences are hypnotic, and constant close-ups of holding hands showing Takakura and Yasuko’s contrived affection are mirrored wonderfully later on when similar shots are shown to reveal a character’s evil intent. In the hands of a less adept filmmaker, Creepy may have fallen into some pacing issues, but Kurosawa manages to keep a compelling feeling of dread throughout, which should keep you interested until the mystery is solved.
Like a chance encounter that somehow felt a little dangerous, Creepy may stay with you days after seeing it. It’s frightening to think that there might be something terrible happening just outside of view, like a dark thought behind an inviting smile. Creepy is just thatm and it’s a hair-raising glance behind the facade of everyday life – a peek inside the criminal mind that shows how easily it can be masked.