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Japan 2004


Masayuki Ochiai

Koichi Sato
Masanobu Takashima
Michiko Hada
Moro Morooka
Shirô Sano
Kaho Minami
Mari Hoshino
Tae Kimura
Yoko Maki
Isao Yatsu

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Story: In a run-down hospital Dr. Akiba (Koichi Sato) and Dr. Uozumi (Masanobu Takashima) have their hands full. It is almost impossible for them to look after every patient. For days already, their pay is overdue, they lack syringes and they are running low on medicine. All in all, the state of the hospital is not justifiable anymore. Even the nurses have to struggle with their share of problems and since an appropriable treatment of the patients isn't insured at the time being, the hospital doesn't accept any new patients.
When a patient dies because of an incident concerning the allowed amount of a certain drug, the doctors and nurses decide to cover up their mistake. Shortly after that a new patient arrives, who seems to be affected by some kind of virus. His organs dissolve into green slime. All hell is breaking loose when the probable high-infective patient disappears. The search for his whereabouts remain unsuccessful. However, the hospital staff first has to take care of a new problem when the head nurse suddenly develops some of the symptoms of the unknown virus. All of a sudden the doctors and nurses start to see ghosts, they feel like being watched and there are also the first dead bodies showing up...

Review: "Infection" starts rather unspectacular in a hospital where the staff has quite some problems to face. While we still can imagine that the film might head into the realms of let's say "Emergency Room", we soon get to know better. The lighting and colour scheme of the pictures change, strange things happen, ghosts emerge and the hospital becomes the playground of death.
Maybe it's because of my fear of dark hospitals, and without a doubt lots of horror movies and video games like "Silent Hill" did their share to add to this fact, or more likely because of the way director Ochiai creates an incredible claustrophobic and grim atmosphere, "Infection" is very creepy and makes you switch on the light in your room every other minute.
Even if it really isn't anything new, we at least aren't haunted by a longhaired girl, but a virus, that let's you see supernatural ghost manifestations and make doctors/nurses creepy frightening killing machines. This makes this movie a welcome change to your typical J-Horror-stuff. Moreover, the film delivers even more...

A whole bunch of individual characters forced to interact with each other under extreme circumstances in a small building. Add a few ghosts and a mysterious virus and the thrilling horror-feast is perfect. The film manages to keep up this depressing claustrophobic mood, even though every person has the theoretical possibility to leave the hospital at any time. However, they are all hindered to do so for similar reasons.
No one of the doctors or nurses seem to be remarkably good in their field. So, it's no big surprise, that someday a patient dies because of their incapability. They have to buy time in order to heat the dead patient's body, so that the substance which eventually led to his death is degraded before the body is sent to the morgue. Apart from that the new patient, who suffers from a strange illness, which transforms his body into green slime, seems to be what's called a Patient X. Never before there have been depictions of the symptoms they have to face here and if the doctors succeed in drawing a clinical picture, they even might have a future after the certain closing of their hospital. Which by the way, might become reality rather sooner than later.
Covering up their mistakes and egoism in general is what causes the doctors to catapult themselves into a nightmare. The audience is quite aware of the fact that they can't possibly deal with the virus and yet they try. Everything that happens after this just seems to be a sort of punishment for the staff's wrong decisions.

One of the movie's biggest flaws is exactly that. Every one of the protagonists has made a mistake and starting from this premise it's pretty difficult to sympathize with any of the persons. Sadly, an even greater problem is that all of the characters are drawn rather shallow and one-dimensional. We have the egoistic doctor, a arrogant nurse, a nurse who messes up everything she tries, a at first glance liable head nurse, and then there is Dr. Akiba who is doubtfully the most colourful one of this mixed bag, yet can't really arouse our interest either. That's because he just isn't in the center of the events.
Actually, we don't really care who of the staff dies or lives, which deprives the horror some of its intensity. Only a few characters can be convincing acting-wise. At this point I have to mention the actress of the mentally disordered old lady, who really does a fine job and adds a lot to the horror, by playing a character who seems to be able to see things that others don't.

Director Ochiai can make up for these flaws by proving that he has a keen sense for the right lighting of a scene and he also makes good use of certain colours. Some scenes are especially moody and creepy, because of a strong greenish touch. However, there are also other colours like blue and orange that are masterfully implemented in the film.
The hospital is perfectly brought into play and supported by a nerve-racking soundtrack the dark run-down corridors of the building create such an intensive creepy atmosphere of the likes you seldomly get to see.
Besides, it's also pretty interesting that Ochiai seems to place value on metaphors and symbolism. An example for the latter are the numerous mirrors that keep popping up rather regularly and are also part of some nice camera angles. The green colour of the blood and later on of some objects is another example. Even the appearance of the little boy with the fox mask has a meaning to it, yet you'll only understand it if you are a bit familiar with Japanese mythology.
Lots of small details make sure that the viewer doesn't lose his interest, but unluckily, the script also loses itself in unimportant details or side characters, who aren't really significant to the story.
If you ask yourself what metaphor the writer of this review is talking about then you should wait until the movie's end, when it's time for the surprising resolving. It won't knock your sock's off, but with delight we find out that all the time director Ochiai just played with our and the protagonist's perception, and suddenly the "green" has a whole new meaning to it.

There are lots of questions unanswered at the end. It's the viewer who has to draw his own conclusions, which however isn't that difficult. Yet, there are a few things that don't fit into the overall picture. What's about the ghosts on the swings or Dr. Akai? It seems as if one tried to hard to pack too much into the film, which makes the story needlessly confusing.
"Infection" has some flaws and that's really sad, because with more interesting characters and a well-balanced script this movie might have gotten what it takes to become a horror milestone under the directing of Ochiai. The way it is, it's just a good horror flick, which cannot deny its strong B-Movie flair, mainly because of the green ooze story. Nonetheless, there is much more to discover behind this first "cheap story" impression. Since the movie did really manage to give me the creeps at times, it clearly can be recommended to any horror-fan!

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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