New York Premiere
83 minutes, in Japanese with English subtitles
Directed by: Takashi Shimizu
Starring: Hikari Mitsushima, Takeru Shibuya, Teruyuki Kagawa, Nao Omori
Sunday, July 15 @ 4:15pm (buy tickets)
(NOTE: unfortunately, TORMENTED will not be screening in 3D. Our apologies!)
Better known as Rabbit Horror, this is not a horror movie. Instead it’s a trippy fairy tale tinged with a bit of J-horror and dripping with gothic atmosphere. Cinematographer Christoper Doyle brought his eye to almost all of Wong Kar-wai’s movies, Zhang Yimou’s color-coded Hero, and to the shimmering, chromium surfaces of Infernal Affairs, and in this flick he teams up with Takashi Shimizu, Japan’s J-horror icon whose Ju-On was remade in Hollywood as The Grudge, to deliver a twisted take on Alice in Wonderland. Filled with a truckload of overlapping realities within realities, the entire movie starts to feel like the reinvention of J-horror tropes via a massive infusion of LSD administered by an army of bunny rabbits.
The flick opens with a splat as 10-year-old Daigo puts a sick rabbit out of its misery with a cinderblock. Taunted as “rabbit killer” by his classmates, his mute sister (Hikari Mitsushima, Love Exposure) let’s him withdraw from school and stay at home, the same way their father has withdrawn from life and stays at home illustrating pop-up fairy tale books. The whole family is still stunned with grief after the death of his first wife, and the death of his second, Daigo’s mother. Each member of the family is isolated in their own private fantasy world of grief and suffering, and it’s up to a six-foot-tall, possibly evil bunny to drag them down the rabbit hole and into the real world.
A dark fairy tale full of abandoned carnivals, night time hospitals, endless corridors, spiral staircases, and a zipper that opens into one mental maze after another, Shimizu and Doyle take the time to give us a movie that locates the yearning, loss, and loneliness at the heart of every fairy tale. In this movie, it’s not the occasional splashes of black blood that stay with you, but the sight of a little girl who refuses to eat the lunch her hated stepmother made for her until she gives in to hunger and shoves it in her mouth, sobbing hysterically all the while.