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Goth - Movie Poster
Original Title:

Japan 2008

Horror, Drama

Gen Takahashi

Kanata Hongo
Rin Takanashi
Toshinobu Matsuo
Miyu Yagyu
Minoru Torihada
So Yamanaka
Yuna Natsuo
Shota Sometani
Keishi Nagatsuka
Kei Nakata
Mika Kamiya

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Goth - Film Screenshot 1

Story: Yoru Morino (Rin Takanashi) goes to high school and is a quiet girl who is fascinated by death. One day, she walks by a crime scene where a dead woman has been exhibited in an aesthetically sophisticated manner. The murderer has taken her left hand as a trophy. At the crime scene Morino also sees her classmate Itsuki Kamiyama (Kanata Hongo). It turns out that he is interested in death and all its different facets, too. Yet, he manages to hide his true nature behind a mask so that he actually is very popular among his classmates. Morino and he decide to find the killer in order to take a look at the victims before the police. At a café, which serves as a meeting point for all kinds of misfits, Morino eventually finds a notebook that seems to be the killer's. Together the two teenagers visit the places listed as possible sites for future murders while the police is still in the dark and new victims are constantly turning up. Kamiyama and Morino are playing a dangerous game when the girl dresses like one of the victims in order to lure out the killer...

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Review: No, "Goth" doesn't show teenagers in black clothes wearing eyeliner and displaying their depression. Well... actually it does in a way - but very subtle and that's not what this Japanese horror drama is about! This movie based on a novel by Otsuichi - who also wrote the source material "My Pretend Girlfriend" is based on - is an almost meditative journey into a world between life and death which is supposed to give the depicted travelers between two worlds answers to the big questions in life. Accordingly, the film turns out to be a philosophical work that as a horror film may have a dark mood, but comes across with almost no scary moments. That's extremely unusual and thus the main reason to absolutely give "Goth" a chance is - next to the wonderful pictures that carry you off to a world between being awake and dreaming - its originality which completely avoids genre clichés.

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You have to applaud the movie's courage. After all, ethically the story walks on very thin ice. Meaning that quite a few viewers might take umbrage at the "heroes" of this story. For Kamiyama and Morino it's not important to solve the case in order to dispose of a killer - which rather would have turned the movie into a typical high school crime story -, but it's the fascination for death itself and killing which makes the two travelers between worlds engage in a dangerous chase. "Goth" could be the background story of a murderer, it's just that we are constantly wondering whether Kamiyama or Morino will eventually give in to the urge of becoming a killer him/herself. Despite of the two investigators' morbid fascination for death we can actually have sympathy for them.

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However, you most likely need to be a bit "different", too, in order to not have an issue with the moral shades of gray depicted in this horror drama. The books and pictures alone, which the two teenagers collect, leave no doubt that the two should be making an appointment with a psychiatrist as soon as possible. Morino is plagued by a trauma, which is thrown light on as the plot unfolds, but Kamiyama seems to be even more frightening at a closer look. He grew up in a loving family and is popular among his fellow classmates. Contrary to Morino he has learned to hide his inner yearning for death, in whatever shape, behind a smile. Since the tv show "Dexter" we know at the latest that those people are the real ticking bombs waiting to blow up.

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The two teenagers' investigation is not that spectacular and consists of a lot of leg work. This is where "Goth" can become a bit lengthy at times. The relationship between Kamiyama and Morino turns out to be a lot more interesting, though, as it is constantly shifting. While similar movies would have made a typical romantic relationship the core of the story, the relationship between the two classmates proves to be a lot more complex and fascinating. Rin Takanashi as Morino, who shows a wide acting range in the movie, as well as Kanata Hongo ("The Blue Bird", "Gantz") manage to deliver striking performances. It's easy to believe them to suffer from a deep-rooted agony which weighs heavy on them, without them ever looking like your typical depressive teenager, who with his/her problems and questions to the world has already become part of a subculture.

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Yet, there are clearly elements of the goth subculture found in some pictures. There is Morino's room, for instance, as well as the at times morbid interests of the protagonists. Particularly impressive are some pictures that resemble that of art house movies, like the one when Morino lies down in a shallow river bed, or the cinematography in general which strongly works with light and shadow and oftentimes overexposes pictures in a way that you believe to take a glance into a world beyond ours. The soundtrack underlines this impression, too. "Goth" may have a few horror elements, but they are very subtle and actually become only apparent in the shape of a dark atmosphere. First and foremost this is an art house drama which centers around two interesting individuals and works with them very well. "Goth" is an unusual film that eludes a genre classification and manages to be moving despite its pecularities. Not a film for everyone, but nonetheless an impressive, quiet horror drama.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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