Thursday, June 22, 2006

Seance (2000)

Kiyoshi Kurosawa's films always leave me speechless. I saw Kairo (aka Pulse) a while ago, and was left amazed. Upon finishing the film, I was disappointed, as I had completely different expectations of it, but I couldn't stop thinking about it for days afterward. It was so dark and nihilistic about the human condition, about how people are so disconnected from each other. After thinking about it, I realized I really did like it. The US remake of it will undoubtedly be crap, opting for jump scares instead of the mounting dread, and will probably take the tone in a completely different direction.

With Seance, Kurosawa left me speechless again. This film was made for TV in Japan, yet manages to surpass most US theatrical films in beauty and substance. A couple, Sato and Junco, live disconnected lives. They seem to still be in love, but aren't quite connected anymore. Sato works as a sound engineer while Junco is a psychic who specializes in seances. Junco also works with a psychologist to prove that psychic phenomena is real. Meanwhile, a little girl is kidnapped from a playground by a man hoping to collect a ransom from her parents.

The kidnapper takes the little girl into the woods, where Sato happens to be recording some woodsy sounds for his job. The little girl escapes from the abductor, and hides in one of Sato's sound equipment cases. Sato then leaves to go home, locking up the case with the child inside. The case sits in his garage, without him or Junco knowing what is inside.

The police catch the kidnapper, but during the capture he is hit with scaffolding and goes into a coma. The police have no clues to the little girl's whereabouts, so they enlist the help of Junco. The police give Junco a handkerchief that belonged to the girl, but she doesn't sense anything until she gets home. Here Junco senses the girl nearby and discovers her in the garage.

Instead of going to the hospital or calling the police, Junco insists that she and Sato keep the little girl there. Junco wants to turn the situation to her advantage, to make her a rich and famous psychic. Her and Sato string the police along, telling them where to find the girl's shoes (that they placed themselves) and assuring them that Junco just needs a little more time to find the girl.

Things quickly go wrong when the little girl dies and Junco and Sato have to cover up more and more and deal with the girl's ghost, while Junco still tries to make a name for herself.

This film was not scary, but like Kairo, it creates a mounting sense of dread. I enjoyed it, but it's not for everyone. It is very slow paced and very quiet. Kurosawa manages to find dread in well-lit, airy places, not an easy task to pull off. There are only a few ghosts in the film, the most prominent being the little girl's ghost. Check this out if you are into more mature horror, like Kairo.

Order it on Amazon!

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