Director Kiyoshi Kurosawa (The Pulse, The Cure, Tokyo Sonata) is back with a satisfying slow burn of a thriller that picks the bones of Hitchcock while remaining faithful to the essential Kurosawa vision. Hidetoshi Nishijima plays an ex-cop turned criminal psychology teacher called Takakura who moves to the suburbs of Inagi City after a clash with a serial killer leaves him with serious physical and psychological injuries. His wife, Yasuko (played by Yûko Takeuchi) is lonely and unhappy as Takakura’s trauma has made him withdrawn. A charming neighbour, Nishino (Teruyuki Kagawa) takes the couple under his wing, but Takakura begins to suspect that this man may be a psychopath responsible for a series of unsolved murders in another part of the city. Takakura begins secretly to investigate Nishino, unaware that Yasuko has fallen under his less-than-benign influence.
One of the directors interviewed for the recent Hitchcock-Truffaut documentary, Kurosawa was quick to acknowledge his debt to the master of suspense, and Creepy – in terms of storyline - bears the hallmarks of classic Hitchcock. We have the theme of the neighbour under suspicion that underlies Rear Window; and the family member who isn’t what he appears to reflect Joseph Cotton’s Uncle Charlie in Shadow of a Doubt. But that’s where in the Hitchcock influence ends: in terms of style, Kurosawa observes a more Japanese tradition. At 130 minutes Creepy unfolds in a leisurely manner, but it’s the attention to detail in establishing a sense of place (the outskirts of a modern city) and the social rituals within the culture (food is a key motif in the film – several scenes depict the characters sharing meals together) that ultimately makes Creepy more than an run-of-the-mill thriller, turning it instead into an absorbing portrait of a disintegrating society.
Cinematographer Akiko Ashizawa creates a strong sense of time and place; his ‘scope framing constantly emphasising the spatial relationships between the characters and their place within the city environment. Tropes of the serial killer movie gradually break through as we begin to discover the truth about Nishino and his ‘daughter’, Mio. By then, Kurosawa has drawn us so fully into this world and the characters by the accretion of visual details that the thriller element becomes all the more rewarding for it.
Finally, as a study of social isolation and the collapse of nuclear family Creepy leaves an indelible impression on the viewer, and all the more so thanks to its slow but compelling thriller framework.CREEPY (CELLULOID SCREAMS FILM FESTIVAL) / CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR: KIYOSHI KUROSAWA / STARRING: HIDETOSHI NISHIJIMA, TERUYUKI KAGAWA, YÛKO TAKEUCHI / RELEASE DATE: NOVEMBER 25TH