The Complex is the latest horror offering from Director Hideo Nakata, who’s credited with directing the original versions of the Ring 1 & 2. To complement the release, a 12 episode drama titled Kuroyuri Danchi was aired prior, which follows events leading up to those that take place in the film. Although the film debuted at number 1 in Japanese box offices, it received mixed reviews, and upon closer inspection it becomes clearer why it may not have lived up to the hype.
The plot follows main character Asuka Ninomiya, whose family have recently moved into the derelict Kuroyuri housing complex rumoured to be haunted. After awakening the first few nights from an insistent scratching coming from the other side of her bedroom wall, Asuka decides to investigate, discovering the body of her deceased elderly neighbour. Once the body is removed however, the scratching continues and Asuka’s curiosity soon turns into maddening fear and obsession as she seeks an answer to the strange occurrences, forcing her to face her own questionable past.
Given the horrifying excellence of the Ring there were high expectations for this film, which unfortunately fell flat. The story starts out strongly enough, albeit a little slow paced, with silent door openings, flickering lights and sound effects generating a solid creepy factor. Atsuko Maeda (AKB48 girl group) is completely convincing as timid Asuka, as is Kanau Tanaka who plays the mysterious yet adorable Minoru Kinoshita.
However, good acting can’t make up for poor scripting and cheesy horror clichés. As the plot progresses it’s over explained to the point where all charm is lost, along with any impact from intentional scares. Badly constructed chuckie-esque special effects during what should have been a horrifying climax, left audiences screaming with laughter and the main exorcism scene felt embarrassingly cringe worthy at best.
It would also be unsurprising if audiences found the story itself a little complex, trying to follow a frustratingly nonsensical attempt at weaving three seemingly unrelated stories together.
Out of the few saving graces was the way the movie was shot, camera angles were fast paced rotating reactively up and down (as if the audience were looking at a character through their own eyes) which was a nice touch. The eventual deterioration of Asuka’s appearance to match her deranged state was another nice detail, as well as the revealing of the main plot twist, which was successfully disguised until the last moment.
It seems that those hoping for a decent horror flick to emerge this year, may need to wait a little longer, as Nakata’s attempt to work within classic J-horror guidelines has left The Complex falling short of its potential.
Review Score: ONE STAR (OUT OF FIVE)
Running Time: 106 minutes (w/English Subtitles)
The Complex is screening as part of the 17th annual Japanese Film Festival, for more information and session times please visit http://japanesefilmfestival.net/