Directed by: Kiyoshi Kurosawa.
Written by: Chihiro Ikeda & Kiyoshi Kurosawa based on the novel by Yutaka Maekawa.
Starring: Hidetoshi Nishijima (Takakura), Yûko Takeuchi (Yasuko), Teruyuki Kagawa (Nishino), Haruna Kawaguchi (Saki), Masahiro Higashide (Nogami), Ryôko Fujino (Mio), Takashi Sasano (Tanimoto), Masahiro Toda (Okawa).
Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Creepy is a film that returns the Japanese director to his J-Horror roots – particularly his 1997 serial killer drama Cure – which was his breakthrough film. Kurosawa would make a few more J-horror films (notably Pulse in 2001) – before starting to make more traditional dramas – but with Creepy, he returns – however briefly – to the genre that launched his career. Like Cure, Creepy is a masterclass is film style – a slow burn of a film that goes from police procedural in the first half to something much darker in the second. Also like Cure, the film is marred by some sloppy storytelling and some huge leaps in logic the film requires the audience to make. If you can accept those however, than Creepy really does deliver.
The film is about Takakura (Hidetoshi Nishijima) – a criminal profiler, who starts the movie as a talented, but arrogant, man who doesn’t see the danger lurking directly in front of him – and that leads to tragic consequences. As a result, he leaves his job, and moves to the suburbs, taking a job teaching criminology at a university, as he tries to repair his marriage to Yasuko (Yuko Takeuchi). His is slowly drawn back into police work –through a cold case in which an entire family – save for one teenage daughter (now an adult) went missing. That daughter claims she doesn’t remember anything, but Takakura isn’t sure he believes her – and starts pushing her, more and more, to remember – and bits and pieces do eventually start coming. There is also the issue of their new neighbor, Nishino (Teruyuki Kagawa) who is, well, creepy. But perhaps she’s just socially awkward and weird – nothing criminal about that – although the fact that his wife remains little seen is strange, and his relationship with his daughter is also weird – but not in a way that you can really put your finger on. Yasuko is more creeped out by him that Takakura – who, once again, may not see what’s lurking under his nose.
Kurosawa’s strength in these thrillers has always been in his ability to create mood and atmosphere – and not so much in his narrative abilities. That’s true in Creepy as well – which is a masterfully made film in many respects, slowly ratcheting up the tension for more than an hour, before twisting itself into something much more horrific (the fact that it’s so normal, makes it more horrific still). Kurosawa, unlike other directors of J horror, never overdoes the blood and gore in his films – he knows, ultimately, he doesn’t need to. He is also capable of getting wonderful performances from his cast – here in particular Nishijima is excellent as the expert profiler, who becomes so obsessed with one case, he cannot see what’s right in front of him, and especially Kagawa as Nishino, who goes from weird to creepy to something else gradually, but wonderfully.
What doesn’t work as well is some of the plotting. While the film is masterfully directed, I do think it takes too long to get where it’s going – it has a tendency to repeat itself. It’s also a plot that relies so heavily on coincidence that even a generous audience member is going to question just how much it leans on it – and just how great of leap of logic the film requires. As well, Yasuko, the protagonists wife, is not as developed as she needs to be to make a late film twist work - seriously the film, which runs over two hours, could have easily found time to make her into more than the main characters wife, which is what was needed to make the twists work.
Still, it’s nice to see Kurosawa step back into the genre that made his career – and show off the old chops again. I wish he’d do it more often, because he really is great at it. Maybe, next time thought, he should get someone else to write the screenplay. Creepy is a good movie that with a together screenplay, could have been a great one.