AsianMovieWeb logo
Original Title:

Japan 2004

Horror, Mystery, Drama

Takashi Shimizu

Shinya Tsukamoto
Tomomi Miyashita
Kazuhiro Nakahara
Miho Ninagawa
Shun Sugata

Search AsianMovieWeb


aka The Stranger from afar

Story: Masuoka (Shinya Tsukamoto) is a freelancing cameraman, who sees life only through a camera lense. Secluded and without any contact to other people he is always searching for the unknown and terror. One day he films a man who commits suicide in a subway station. Whatever drove him into doing it, in his eyes there was absolute fear to be seen. Masuoka now is eager to find out what the reason for this incredible fear was. What did the man see shortly before killing himself?
The researches of the cameraman lead him into the deep catacombs and tunnels below Tokyo. There, a different world exists, a world that actually seems to be the abyss. Dangerous and frightening creatures, the "Deros" seem to be living there. However, Masuoka also finds a strange girl (Tomomi Miyashita) down there, that he calls F. He takes her home with him and treats her like a pet since she doesn't behave like a human being. She neither eats nor drinks anything until Masuoka finds out that she only drinks blood, preferably human one. Is F actually one of the "Deros" and can she help him find the ultimate terror? Masuoka thinks she can and so he gets some food for her...

Review: "Marebito" is an intense and terrifying movie experience if you like horror that works mainly because of its dark and gloomy atmosphere and which takes place in the protagonist's mind most of the time. If this is not your cup of tea then you might find the movie a little bit too lengthy and confusing. However, actually director Takashi Shimizu ("Ju-on: The Grudge") proves that he succeeded not only in creating a disturbing horror film in only 8 days with few resources, but also made a profound and multilayered piece of art. So if you expect your typical J-Horror Film you will be disappointed, but that's exactly what's making "Marebito" so much worth watching.

Masuoka is a man who can't establish relations with other people. He is solitary and lives isolated in a small flat. He is only able to look at the world through a camera lense. A strange man, yet we are perfectly introduced to his life and become a part of it. Masuoka is also the narrator of the story, tells us his train of thoughts and almost the whole time we see only what he sees. And this doesn't always have to be the truth. Masuoka is a depressive man, who just has been divorced and who wasn't granted custody for his daughter. He just really would like to kill himself, at least that's what a scene at a bridge suggests, but he doesn't seem to be able to. Is it the fear of death? Maybe that's the reason why he is so fascinated by the panic in the eyes of the suicide victim in the underground station. If he could take a glance at the same terror he saw, Masuoka might fear something even bigger than death and finally might be able to kill himself.
These are just a few of the connections you have to make in order to follow the movie and make sense of it until the end. A lot of questions won't get any answers or are up to your imagination. Nonetheless, if you go through the trouble of thinking about the events that might make no sense at first you will actually get a few answers. Moreover, "Marebito" is a movie that is best watched several times to understand everything that goes on onscreen.

The story is complex, yet takes place on a more psychic level. Is Masuoka just crazy and is what he sees just a result of not taking his medicine anymore? For quite some time you can't get a straight answer to that and if you don't give it some thought you won't get along with future events in the movie. Actually, the observant viewer will get some clues making it not that difficult for him to solve the puzzle. A strange woman appears who wants to get back their daughter, a mysterious man tells Masuoka that he can't take care of "F" etc. The different pieces can be put together rather easily, but the film doesn't stop there, instead provides us with even more layers. That's where it gets complicated and for some viewers especially the ending might result in many questions. However: watch carefully, reflect about it, interpret and maybe you even have to watch it once more, but eventually you will understand that Shimizu's work is a little masterpiece.

"Marebito" is a movie that works so great because of its disturbing and eerie atmosphere. The first half hour is particularly thrilling. When Masuoka wanders deeper and deeper into the depths of the secret catacombs below Tokyo, whereas the events are often brought on screen by the gritty camera pictures of Masuoka himself, then we are strongly reminded of "Silent Hill". In the Japanese horror game series the odd horror deriving right from the abyss of human soul is in the center of events, too. A dark and minimalistic soundtrack adds even more to the tense atmosphere and together with the camera man we dive deep into a mysterious dark world, that also might have come out of H.P. Lovecraft's head himself. The endless tunnels, spiral staircases and narrow corridors really create the feeling in you that you are entering a world that lies deep below ours and which is buried in the ground for a reason. Masuoka's tales about enigmatic beings, holes in the world and the creatures that lurk in the abyss will definitely give you the chills. An impressive and unusual kind of horror.

The pacing slows down a bit towards the end, nonetheless the tension is always high as long as you are willing to get lost in the mood the movie creates. Numerous questions will engage you constantly, letting you hope that you might find some answers along the way and several sudden cuts demand a reorientation.
Shinya Tsukamoto, who made a name for himself as a director of movies like "Tetsuo - The Ironman" or "Vital", proves once again his acting abilities. Although we are quite aware that his character is everything but normal we somehow manage with ease to enter his world. He doesn't have to shine with an outstanding performance, because most events take place between the lines anyway, nevertheless he does a very good job in bringing the movie forward all by himself. He is a man estranged from society, obsessed by the idea to have to look for pure terror or horror. Of course, his way eventually leads him into his own mind, where he gets lost in a vortex of madness...
Additionally, Tomomi Miyashita does also give a very good performance as the mysterious being, making your blood run cold on several occasions.

At some points you can see that "Marebito" didn't had any big (or even low) budget at hand, for example in the few scenes that feature some special effects. Nonetheless, Takashi Shimizu manages to create an atmospherically extreme tense, fascinating and creepy movie, even though or especially because the shocking moments are different from what you are used to see, working on a more subtle level. It's all about the abyss you can find in the human soul and this is actually the most horrifying one.
Being a tranquil and profound movie, this one might not please every viewer, but if you are looking for a demanding, intelligent and atmospherically tense psychological horror film that forces you to make use of your brain, then "Marebito" is just what you were looking for.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
Buy this movie:

Yesasia Logo