29 July 2017

MAREBITO and THE SUICIDE MANUAL 2: A DUO OF ASIAN HORROR FILMS REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS.




MAREBITO and THE SUICIDE MANUAL 2: A TERRIFYING DOUBLE BILL OF ASIAN HORROR FILM REVIEWS BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

MAREBITO. (2004) TAKASHI SHIMIZU. STARRING SHINYA TSUKAMOTO AND TOMOMI MIYASHITA.

THE SUICIDE MANUAL 2. (2003) BASED ON THE BOOK BY WATARU TSURUMI. DIRECTED AND CO-WRITTEN BY OSAMU FUKATANI. STARRING CHISATO MORISHITA, KENJI MIZUHASHI AND YUKO NAKAMURA.

THE SUICIDE MANUAL 2 is based on a real how-to manual, the titular SUICIDE MANUAL (1993) by Wataru Tsurumi, that actually nearly topped the bestselling lists in Japan for a while back in the day, coming second only to the hilariously titled but very real non-fiction book, HOW TO ARGUE WITH KOREANS. Clearly, the Japanese people would wish to be well prepared when it comes to chewing the conversational fat with their near neighbours...!

As of writing this review, I haven't actually seen the original film. I was shown THE SUICIDE MANUAL 2 by a friend who hadn't actually realised it was a sequel so, to all intents and purposes, it's a perfectly stand-alone and infinitely watchable horror film.

Its premise is as follows. The handsome Yosuke, who works first as a policeman and then as a forensics officer, is involved in several cases of suicide that all have one thing in common. A nasty little DVD, THE SUICIDE MANUAL on tape, as it were, is found on or near the bodies.

We are shown distasteful little clips from the DVD throughout the film. A woman literally talks the viewers through the many and varied ways of ending one's life, everything from electrocution and immolation (horrific, don't even think about it) to death by drowning and death by a bite from a poisonous creature such as a scorpion. Thankfully, that last one would be pretty difficult to achieve here in Ireland, I think. I hope...!

Yosuke has a deeply personal interest in the suicide cases. His own girlfriend Megumi has tried several times to take her own life. In fact, they met when he found her, in his capacity as the responding police officer, bleeding from a slashed wrist on her apartment floor.

Yosuke saved her life, so maybe he feels responsible for her. Maybe he's the kind of guy who likes to be with women who need 'saving,' so that he can be the knight in shining armour. Either way, he puts up with a lot from the mopey Megumi. Her repeated attempts at suicide, her mood swings, the way she tries to blame him for her problems. It's all very hard going but he grits his teeth and gets on with it. He hangs in there determinedly, like the cat on the poster.

After one suicide attempt too many, Yosuke puts Megumi in touch with what he thinks is a suicide support group. It's a suicide 'support' group all right, but not in the way he thinks. This grim, already slightly depressing horror film takes us into even darker places from here on in as we see exactly how much this little group is prepared to 'support' Megumi and others like her in their suicide attempts...

MAREBITO is a shocking piece of work by the guy who made all the JU-ON: THE GRUDGE films. I understand he made it as a kind of Lovecraftian-inspired passion project in between doing some GRUDGE films, just as a change and also to give him a chance to experiment with some other ideas he had fermenting in his brain at that time. The result is an unforgettable journey into terror for both the protagonist and the viewer...

Masuoka is a cameraman who mostly films news items. He's not quite the full shilling- a lovely 'Irish-ism' for saying he's as mad as a box of frogs- and he's obsessed with the notion of understanding and photographing fear. You'd have to be mad, wouldn't you, to actually want to see something so terrifying it would make you stab yourself in the eye, just to take the sight of it away...? 

He makes his way, camera in hand, down into the eerie tunnels beneath Tokyo that are no longer used for subway/transportation purposes. They might have been there since World War Two, or they might have been there for much longer than that.

Either way, they're as creepy as hell, peopled by only the occasional lost soul who has rejected society as fully and finally as it has rejected him. It's truly a haunted, subterranean Kingdom of the Damned and surely no good can come of going down there.

While he's down there, Masuoka makes a discovery that makes about as much sense as anything else he finds down there. He comes across a beautiful naked girl chained to a rock. He doesn't know who put her there, or how long she's been down there. He frees her, then brings her back with him to inhabit the peopled world of above-ground.

She's mute, she doesn't eat people-food and she can't even walk, she can only crawl and skitter across his small flat like a horrible long-legged insect from a B-movie. It's so creepy and even sad to see him treating her like some kind of exotic pet rather than a human being.

It reminds me of a short story I wrote once, for a class I was taking, about a man who accidentally fishes a mermaid out of the sea. He's mesmerised by her naked beauty and brings her home with him, where he hopes he can keep her alive in his bath. She's stone-dead after one night. That's not a spoiler for the film, by the way...!

Anyway, when the besotted Masuoka discovers what this mute girl likes to drink, the film takes an even darker turn. He embarks on a terrible crime spree and nothing, literally nothing, is as it seems as his madness takes him to some very strange and frightening places.

The words 'he should have left well enough alone' spring to mind as Masuoka's world contracts horrifically and he finds himself face-to-face with the terror he's been chasing from the beginning. Let's hope, for his sake, that it's all it's cracked up to be...

Well, there you go anyway, dear readers, a duet of Asian horror films that would go very nicely together as a double feature some afternoon or evening. Make sure you eat before you watch them, though. You may have lost your appetite by the time you've seen 'em both...!

 AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:


http://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com







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