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Original Title:

Japan 2005


Shinya Tsukamoto

Shinya Tsukamoto
Kahori Fujii

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Story: A man (Shinya Tsukamoto) awakes in a dark, narrow space. He barely can move and doesn't remember anything. How did he end up here? Who is he anyway and how did he lose his memory? The man has no time to find some answers to these questions, instead he makes his way through this creepy and frightening maze. He has an injury at his belly, gets unconscious every now and then and always wakes up somewhere else in this deadly labyrinth. One time he even has a steel pipe at his mouth and carefully has to move forward to its end to get free from it again. However, this isn't the only horror awaiting him. He has to witness people getting chopped into pieces and has to evade strange traps, until he suddenly meets another prisoner (Kahori Fujii).
Are the two held hostage by a perverse madman? And what's about the odd pictures of a firework that flashes into the mind of the prisoner from time to time? Why does he assume that he might be a prisoner of war? The only thing for sure is that his new female companion won't stay any further in this horror labyrinth and so the two continue to search for an exit...

Review: "Haze" is more of a short film since its running time is merely 49 minutes. However, Director Shinya Tsukamoto ("Vital") creates a terrifyingly claustrophobic piece of work that will grant you a gaze into hell itself. The dark, narrow spaces, the nightmarish situation in which the prisoners are trapped, this all makes us think that the director wanted us to show the different levels of hell, which every sinner has to go through. Nonetheless, interestingly enough the main protagonist never comes to this conclusion. He believes that a rich and mad sadist captured him or that he is a prisoner of war, as he tells us in his few monologues. The reason for this is actually quite conclusive even if it is presented in a rather confusing way at the end.
"Haze" has a lot in common with a nightmare in several aspects and so one shouldn't be surprised, that you only will get some common sense out of the movie if you start to analize and interpret the odd happenings and dialogues/monologues.

It's really somewhat frustrating that we only get to see little of specific scenes. The movie takes place in complete darkness and since we only see what the main protagonist sees, this isn't much, to say the least. The unknown, without a doubt, is what makes us cry in fear the most, yet absolute darkness also can be quite boring at times...
Still, one thing is for sure. The movie works mainly because of its atmosphere and this is a very tense and gripping one at that. Director Shinya Tsukamoto also plays the lead role and even manages to give a very nice portrayel. Struck by fear and panic he crawls through the deadly corridors, sometimes we sneak a peek at one of the numerous torture traps and at other times we even get to see chopped body parts in all of its horrifying explicitness.

It's definetely thrilling not to know the reason behind the imprisonment, but because of the repetitive style of the several crawling sequences, watching can soon become quite tedious. If the amtmosphere weren't that gripping and creepy, the film easily could have become really fatiguing.
The maze, the traps, the prisoner, all this strongly reminds us of "Cube", and even if the horror is more nightmarish than splatter-like, the uncertainty about the sense of it all really adds to the tension. The resolving, however, takes some time until it finally hits the screen, and we are slowly lead to it by strange pictures from the prisoner's mind scattered throughout the movie and by his dialogues with his female companion. Actually, the story twist is quite good, yet it just doesn't fit into the mood of the rest of the film. Without going too much into details - the breach of style is just too apparent.

Moreover, if it's not your cup of tea to constantly interpret the events on screen, then this one surely isn't for you. At the end, there is more than one way to explain what has happened throughout the movie. At first, everything just seems to be needlessly confusing, yet with time and after a few minutes of reflecting and thinking it's in fact possible to put some reasoning into all of it.
Still, Shinya Tsukamoto could have done a lot more with the plot given. Nobody is saying that he should have made another "Cube", but a few more traps or torture scenes would have been (please excuse the following expression) "nice". The scenes in "hell" are very disturbing and really make you resolve to never do anything unlawful or sinful. Who knows, what if at the end hell really does exist!?
And this is another one of the movie's sore points. Way too late we get to know that the director didn't put his focus on this aspect of the plot.

If you like unusual, dark horror, that can score with a tense atmosphere and short film charm, then you should check out this movie. Still, unfortunately, "Haze" can't answer the high expectations it raises and proves that there is more to the title than what we initially thought. The viewer, too, sees everything through a haze, and has to conjecture lots of things, not only visually, but also storywise.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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