Kiyoshi Kurosawa, the director of classic J-horror Pulse, delivers a less supernatural and more home-based terror with his new film Creepy. A disturbing thriller that proves you should never interact with your neighbours.
What are your neighbours like? Perhaps you have a nice, older couple who say hello every time you see them watering their flower-beds. Maybe you post them a Christmas card every year, which you cutely address ‘hey neighbours’. Only it’s not really cute, it’s just because you’ve never bothered to learn their names.
Good. That’s the way it should stay.
Because as soon as you learn their names, the sooner you’ll end up having a conversation with them, and the sooner you’ll be invited round for dinner. Then when you least expect it, you’ll be shot full of benzodiazepine and locked in their sex dungeon with nothing but boxes of old pornography and a gimp for company.
Neighbours. You don’t know what the fuck they’re up to in their own homes, and you should keep it that way.
And that’s basically what I’ve learnt from Creepy. Thanks Kiyoshi Kurosawa, you’ve probably saved my life.
Creepy begins with two semi-distinct narratives that become less distinct during the course of the movie. Takakura (Hidetoshi Nishijima) is an ex-detective and expert in criminal psychology who moves with his wife Yasuko (Yuko Takeuchi) to the suburbs after a violent encounter during his last arrest. However Takakura is soon asked by a former colleague to help with a cold case, where three members of a family mysteriously disappeared, leaving a young teenage daughter to fend for herself.
Meanwhile, Yasuko is at home and doing her best to ingratiate herself into the neighbourhood. Most of the neighbours are comically rude, but one neighbour called Nishino (Teruyuki Kagawa) seems especially bizarre. What he lacks in social skills he makes up for with pure oddness.
These two mysteries play out effectively. Each ramping up the tension in their own nuanced way, before culminating at the midway point in an unbelievably coincidental manner. Up until this point, I was quite enjoying the puzzle. The mystery around the family’s disappearance was throwing up all sorts of spine-chilling moments. Especially the revelation that each member of the family seemed to be having entirely distinct relationships with whoever was responsible for the disappearance.
Likewise, Yasuko’s frustrations with trying to impress her neighbours felt very real – her desperation understandable as there’s nobody else around, yet her reticence to do so because they’re so bat-shit crazy, also very sympathetic.
Teruyuki Kagawa’s performance as the deeply concerning neighbour is the best thing in the movie. Portraying awkwardness to squirm-inducing levels while remaining sympathetic is an art in itself, but adding an undercurrent of intimidation and ambiguous violence to the mix is truly genius.
It’s just a shame that Creepy’s secrets are revealed to soon, and its forward momentum beyond the halfway point is so full of terrible character choices and unlikely moments that audience credulity is over-stretched. I won’t dive into any of the twists, but it’s been a long time since I watched a movie and said out loud “yeah but you wouldn’t do that, would you.”
Creepy’s protagonist, the humourless ex-cop Takakura, is entirely unsympathetic. His wife Yasuko’s descent feels utterly implausible. And the central conceit, that one human being can hold such a powerful sway over multiple people over the course of many years, doesn’t hold any credibility within the movie’s context. Then Creepy rounds everything off with a limp ending, devoid of any tension or drama. It’s a shame, because for the first half, Creepy is a neat, slow-burning thriller showing huge amounts of promise, with a genuinely captivating villain.
But like I said, thanks to this film, I’ve learnt when leaving the house that if I hear my neighbours leaving at the same time, I just stand in silence for 10 minutes and wait for them to go first. It’s safer that way. 3/5
Please note, this review was originally published in October 2016, as part of our London Film Festival coverage.