‘A Spooky Tale’
Thanks to the good people of the Japanese Film Festival, we got to see The Complex. This is our review of the film, but – as always – we still recommend you go to your local cinema to see it, because there is no better critic than yourself!
Directed by Hideo Nakata (Ring, Ring 2, Dark Water), this 2013 Japanese film feels like more of a supernatural thriller than a horror. There’s no gratuitous gore and none of the creepy sequences will have you leaping out of your seat or covering your eyes. Its R rating is frankly a little perplexing. The story follows nursing student, Asuka (Atsuko Maeda), who shares a small apartment with her parents and younger brother. When Asuka hears strange sounds coming from the apartment next door, she is eventually tempted to investigate, and finds herself in the midst of troubling supernatural events. She forges an unlikely friendship with a young boy.
A slow-moving affair, The Complex lacks Nakata’s usual edge. The director rarely follows through on the promising tension building of his suspenseful scenes. Some J-horror fans may also be put off by its derivative, and therefore somewhat predictable, plot. The haunting tale mines familiar spooky turf and, overall, the low-budget effects don’t serve the film very well. The real chills come by way of a sense of unease, rather than fear, and the film’s dynamic sound effects create much of the suspense. That said, this is also a well-structured, haunting tale, and its themes of guilt, loneliness, and mortality are explored with sensitivity. In addition, the competent cast effectively brings the narrative to life through understated performances. Former member of Japanese girl band, AKB48, Maeda gives a particularly strong performance in her role as the troubled Asuka.