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Booth (Nakamura Yoshihiro 2005)


Categories:

Booth
[Busu]

Genre: Supernatural Psychological Meltdown

review in one breath

A well-known and somewhat haughty radio host is suddenly haunted by his past when his show temporarily moves to an outdated basement studio booth with a notorious history. Though his job entails giving cheerfully confident advice to others, on this particular evening he is forced to undergo some terrifying introspection. This is as much a psychological thriller as supernatural ghost tale and is the second film in the recent "New Generation Thrillers" series.


intro

Booth is a companion film to the recently released Pray by director Sato Yuichi. Both films have been released as part of the "New Generation Thrillers Series", a title which derives from a recently published literary collection of horror-thriller tales by various up-and-coming contemporary authors.

The current film is based upon a short story entitled Booth written by Nakamura Yoshihiro who also directs this film. Nakamura's prior work includes forays into both mainstream and J-Horror projects including co-authoring the screenplay for Nakata Hideo's 2002 Dark Water and directing six videos in the Honto Ni Atta! Noroi Bideo series.

Nakamura's short story Booth is published alongside Pray by Ogawa Tomoko, another contemporary author with similar experience in horror/thriller film, including co-authoring with renowned manga artist Tsutomu Takahashi the novel Sky High upon which the theatrical release and TV series were based. Both Nakamura and Ogawa's stories are published in a single volume, the first of a series entitled "Absolute Terror: New Generation Thrillers Series".

There is very little to criticize regarding Nakamura's direction of this film, and in many ways this comes across as highly stylized and polished. One particular advantage this film has over Sato's Pray is the flawless performance of lead actor Sato Ryuta in the role of late-night radio host Shogo. So much of the impact of this story revolves around the audience's ability to follow Shogo's psychological descent, that Sato's ability to convincingly pull this off is absolutely crucial. And he does an excellent job of delivering a complex character study.

This is a rather refreshing horror tale chocked full of unexpected twists and purely psychological chills. AND (!!!) there are no spooky little girls or descents into dark, damp holes/wells in the ground! In place of elements which are by now mere j-horror cliches, Nakamura brings to the table a rather heavy moral message which leaves the audience wondering whether the victims here did not somehow bring about their own demise through their own moral lapses.

story

Radio DJ Shogo Katsumata hosts the late-night "Tokyo Love Connection", a talk-radio show inviting listeners to call in and discuss their love lives. In lieu of moving to new broadcasting facilities, Shogo's show is temporarily moved to "Studio 6", a small outdated broadcast booth in the basement of the facility. Despite the old equipment, the show gets underway but is soon interrupted by audible static through which Shogo and his studio crew can hear a woman's voice distinctly saying "Liar! You are nothing but a liar!".

While the crew tries to isolate the source of the static, they jokingly recall the studio's reputation as being the place of another DJ's suicide decades ago. But before the chills set in, the problem disappears and the calls continue to pour into the program. It soon becomes clear, however, that the woman's voice was also broadcast over the airwaves, as callers begin discussing the voice despite Shogo's best efforts to corral the topic.

Throughout the evening, each time Shogo tries to relate to the caller's issue by reflecting on his own past, the static and voice briefly return, long enough to again accuse him of being a liar. And with each such incident, Shogo's facade of a light-hearted radio personality begins to crack as memories, theories, and paranoia begin creeping in. He then realizes that each caller's problem bears an uncanny resemblance to regrettable incidents in his own past. Is this a joke being played on him by his crew? Or perhaps someone has discovered his regrettable secrets? In trying to understand his situation, Shogo's fear and emotions are soon in overdrive.

verdict

I found this quite refreshing and satisfying. As mentioned earlier, this does not dredge up the classic j-horror cliches and actually brings something (seemingly) new to the table. The strongest part of this storyline is the very effective psychological meltdown experienced by Shogo. It is both convincing and plausible. While the audience is given some information which Shogo does not have, such as the booth's tragic history, the real tension comes from our knowing less about Shogo than he and the crew. As he is forced to begin recollecting, his growing horror becomes our increased suspense, with each new creepy phenomenon in basement studio 6 bringing us all one step closer to an uncertain ending.

This is well worth the watch and is now readily available in Region 1 subtitled format.

Version reviewed: Region 1 subtitled DVD available at all mainstream outlets.

cultural interest violence sex strangeness
Second film released from the "Zettai Kyoufu: New Generation Thriller" series. Some graphic display of suicide and violence, including one car dragging. Some sudden, desperate kissing. Refreshing psychological horror with plenty of twists and none of the current j-horror cliches.

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