During a recent conversation with Dominique Lamssies in which I admitted that I had judged the Grudge films too harshly, she recommended that I check out Reincarnation by the same director, which was released on DVD in the States as part of that whole After Dark Horror Fest thing. So I watched it, and I loved it, and now I’m going to ramble a bit.
Oddly enough, I watched Reincarnation while I was right in the middle of reading Adam Cesare‘s Tribesmen, which has a somewhat similar logline: some people are making a movie in a place where very bad things once happened, when history begins to repeat itself on film.
(This isn’t a review of Tribesemen, but it is wonderful, even if–like me–Italian cannibal films aren’t really your cup of tea, being, as it is, as much Hollywood Boulevard as Cannibal Holocaust.)
The first place where Reincarnation deviated from my expectations is that the filmmakers in the movie aren’t actually filming their movie in the place where the bad things happened. Oh, they certainly take the cast and crew to visit the out-of-the-way hotel where eleven people were murdered 35 years earlier, but while most movies would pull in some excuse to strand them all out there and have the havoc locked into that location, Reincarnation takes a much subtler and more roundabout approach.
It also doesn’t feel much like what we’ve probably all come to expect from the standard J-horror spook show. In fact, the beats of Reincarnation would have felt right at home in an E.F. Benson story, even if the specifics would have been a little different. There are echoes of The Shining going on here, and not just in the hotel setting or the emphasis on one particular room number. Though it came out in 2005, there’s a kind of 1970s look to Reincarnation, maybe in part because that’s when the murders that set the story into motion are supposed to have taken place.
It’s an oddly-paced and quiet movie, one that doesn’t actually get to the stuff on the back of the box until the last thirty minutes. But that doesn’t mean that it’s slow. It drops you into strange happenings immediately, but then takes almost half the movie to actually get to the hotel. Like several of Shimizu’s other films, there are multiple plots happening at once and only sort-of converging. It’s an effect that he puts to good use elsewhere, and maybe even better use here. Reincarnation is never really jump-out-of-your-seat scary, but it is very creepy, and sometimes very beautiful, with lots of great wide-angle shots and a really good genius loci in the form of the old hotel.
In front of the movie, the DVD had a sort of aggregate preview for all of the After Dark Horror Fest films this was released as part of, and while watching that trailer I thought to myself, “I want to figure out which movie that doll is from and watch it!” Luckily for me, it turned out to be from this movie, so mission accomplished! Seriously, though, that wall-eyed doll is pretty creepy, even before part of its face caves in and it starts stop-motion walking down a hallway…