Shinya Tsukamoto, Tomomi Miyashita
Directed By:
Takashi Shimizu

Let's not kid ourselves - a lot of Asian horror is focused on ghosts and hauntings. So much of it, in fact, that most movies can boil down to one influence or another. So when a movie comes around that finds a nice idea, it's well worth the time to watch. Such is Marebito, a dark trip into fear where the main character runs into blood feeding underground dwellers.

As a video journalist, Masuoka starts on his dark path when he videotapes a man who kills himself by stabbing out his eye. It's the mortal fear in his eyes that makes the Masuoka search for what would cause a man to want to kill himself. In his hunt for the ultimate terror, he ends up finding an underground world, where he runs into the dead man. This begins a conversation where the dead man tells him about the dark underground world, filled with fearful vagrants and blood fiends, known as Deros. This conversation offers possibilities that unfortunately never go anywhere. As the main character continues his investigation, he finds a Lovecraftian underground city, pulled straight from At the Mountains of Madness.

It's in this cyclopean city he finds the naked body of a young girl, who is chained to a wall. After he takes the girl back to his apartment, he tries to get her to speak or eat, but she's so feral that he fears she may die. After run-ins with a dark entity, he discovers that she desires blood for nourishment. To satiate her, he eventually begins killing people and brings her their blood.

Marebito features a lot of internal dialogue from the main character. In fact a lot of the story it told through his thoughts. This is especially necessary when the only other character with screen time is pretty much mute. Additional characters prove to be garnish to the story, passing through to add to the story or give purpose to the devices to the plot.

When the endgame of the movie begins to play out, it has some interesting twists that almost feel unrealized. It's as if they get mentioned in passing, but we're lead to believe that they might not be true. The actual ending is a bit weird, even for the genre, but it fits with the odd path that the movie takes.

Special effects are really kept to a minimum. There's some stage blood here and there, but the Deros are barely on screen long enough to give the viewer an idea of what they look like. Some of the locations are effectively dark and dank and the underground city is obviously a painting, but it looks good all the same.

As said throughout the review, the problem with Marebito is that there's so much that can be done here that when none of it is actually realized, it feels like one long tease. I feel let down that so many interesting ideas and locations are introduced early on, because they're never revisited beyond a minor passing effort. It's a shame that so much potential is wasted.

If you're looking for a different offering in the Asian horror genre, Marebito is certainly worth a rental. It proves to be a bit weird, but the overall mood and execution is well done. If the better parts of the script had been handled differently and expanded, I would say that this could have really stood out in the genre.

- - Vane

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