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Stars: Hidetoshi Nishijima, Yuko Takeuchi, Teruyuki Kagawa, Haruna Kawaguchi, Ryoko Fujino, Masahiro Higashide, Takashi Sasano

Director: Kiyoshi Kurosawa

The title tells all?

Well, not exactly.

While the titular psychopath at the centre of co-writer (with Chihiro Ikedaa) and director Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s vivid chiller is exactly that, the film is considerably more – cleverly multilayered and far more compelling than most of the psychopath-on-the-loose shockers that turn up with disheartening regularity these days,

Strong storytelling, happily devoid of the many “look at me, aren’t I clever!” tropes so beloved of aspirant auteurs, no longueurs and a relentless pace grab you and keep you hooked as the story unfolds.

Nishijima is compelling right at the start when, interviewing an icy young serial killer, he describes him as “the perfect psychopath”. Then the killer escapes, catalyzing a tense hostage situation in the Tokyo Police HQ. Tragedy ensues when Nishijima attempts to save the situation, using his theories about serial slayers.

Understandably traumatised by the bloody standoff, Nishijima resigns. A year later, now a university professor of criminal psychology and living with his wife Takeuchi in a (Japanese-style) version of a ‘traditional’ “sanitised-by-Spielberg suburb, he is drawn back into crime solving by a former colleague.

And, bizarrely, the hunt for a missing suburban family involves Nishijima in increasingly terrifying confrontations with neighbour Kagawa, which culminate in increasingly tense sequences certain to scare moviegoers shirtless, catalyzed by Kagawa’s daughter whispering to him, “That man in my house in not my father – he’s a total stranger!”...

The climactic scenes are set inside an increasingly creepy house whose more-and-more horrible scenes – especially in the cellar – make Scare Cinema’s most celebrated home, the Bates Motel, resemble a twee Disneyesque retirement home by comparison.

Obviously the fact that the actors (all of whom are first rate and credible, too) are essentially ‘unknowns’ in terms of Western cinema adds reality to the all-too-convincing atmosphere terror that Kurosawa creates, potentiates and sustains with a cruel confidence that De Sade himself might well have envied.

There is one thing that Creepy definitely does not need.

And that’s a redundant Hollywood remake.

Alan Frank

Japan 2016. UK Distributor: Eureka. Colour.
130 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 2, Violence/Horror 3, Drugs 1, Swearing 2.

Review date: 27 Nov 2016