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Now showing in Hong Kong

Film review: Creepy – neighbours hide deadly secrets in atmospheric thriller

Japanese horror maestro Kiyoshi Kurosawa gives a masterclass in creating tension in this riveting mystery centred on an ex-detective and his suburban family, their weird neighbour and an unsolved missing-persons case

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 22 September, 2016, 5:44pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 22 September, 2016, 5:44pm

3.5/5 stars

Creating tension and dread in a film is an underappreciated skill, and Kiyoshi Kurosawa – the Japanese horror-film director who made a name for himself with the cult hits Cure (1997) and Pulse (2001) – delivers a masterclass in his latest psychological thriller. Long before the shocking final act of this riveting adaptation of Yutaka Maekawa’s mystery novel, Creepy will have grabbed your attention with its unfathomable sense of eeriness.

A believer in the theoretical approach to breaking down psychopaths, Takakura (Hidetoshi Nishijima) is a former police detective who quit the force after a serial killer went berserk on his watch. A year has passed and the shaken ex-cop, now a lecturer in criminal psychology, is looking to start a new life with wife Yasuko (Yuko Takeuchi) in the suburbs – only for his wish to be complicated by the eccentric Nishino (Teruyuki Kagawa), who lives next door with a daughter and an invalid wife no-one ever sees.

A character actor who also impressed in Kurosawa’s Tokyo Sonata (2008) and Penance (2012), Kagawa nails the role of the mysterious neighbour who shows spontaneous bursts of hostility and no conceivable social skills. In a turn of events that requires a major suspension of disbelief, Nishino is soon tenuously linked to the six-year-old case of a missing family that Takakura is reopening with a former assistant (Masahiro Higashide): could the mastermind behind Takakura’s case be the reclusive weirdo living down the street?

The possible-murderer-next-door premise lends the film a Hitchcockian undertow (in a recent interview, Kurosawa confirmed to me that Creepy was subconsciously – though not directly – influenced by Hitchcock); even a short trip down the gloomy entranceway in Nishino’s house can prove nerve-shredding. While the film eventually settles on Kurosawa’s favourite themes of familial breakdown and the evocative sway of evil, it is the queasy ambience that will stay with you long after it’s all over.

Creepy opens on September 22

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