Genre: Psychological Drama, Horror
Starring: Yoshino Kimura, Yû Kurosawa, Ken Ishiguro
Director: Toshiyuki Mizutani
It's been a while since I've seen a good Japanese horror, and with Isola promising on some good ol' fashioned supernatural scares I thought it would be great for a go; a serious flick about the terror a girl with multiple personalities can wreak. Well, Isola broke her promise. The first warning should have come when it rather worryingly pieced together disjointed footage showing the wreckage of the Kobe Earthquake, the aftermath of which is where the events take place, but if that wasn't enough, the fact he doesn't understand the concept of colour correction and left it all looking slightly more yellow than it should have (and seeing as this one came from the DVD and was not a ripped version, there can be no real excuse) should have been the last straw. In fact, this shouldn't really be referred to as a horror at all; at no point does it make any attempt to scare you and nothing truly horrific ever really happens.
Following the story of Yukari, a psychic still trying to find herself after suffering contempt for her abilities, travels from Tokyo to Kobe in the hopes of somehow be able to lend assistance. It isn't long before she discovers a child psychiatrist who unveils her difficulty in dealing with a child and her multiple personality disorder, Chihiro. Taking an interest in her split personality and finally finding someone with whom she might genuinely be able to help, she quickly learns of her less friendly side, but this is not what frightens her, it is the 13th personality known as Isola which draws the most attention. Not spoken of by the other personalities and treated as a vengeful spirit by other students, as she explores the origins of this personality with the assistance of Dr. Manabe she learns the truth behind the entity known as Isola.
As it all is slowly unveiled, certain elements become initially confusing (though with the exception of one bemusing line, is easy to figure out in the following moments) in this detailed but ultimately linear plot. There can sadly be mistaking what the director is suggesting actually happened, no subtlety or ambiguity as to whether it really was a spirit or if it was all in their minds. In fact, the simple point that we have a 'Japanese Prof Xavier' reading peoples minds left right and centre is just assumed and never really explained, and at some point – though I admit it is hard to pinpoint precisely where – it stops being far fetched and starts being completely ridiculous, more likely to induce a chuckle as your slightly bemused self takes in that, yes, that is what the director is suggesting, than it ever manages to come close to eliciting a scare.
It doesn't even feel fitting to truly refer to it as a 'dark' drama, for whilst that's certainly the atmosphere obviously shot for with the overwhelming use of the darkness and dated ethereal effects to try to maintain the tone, it doesn't really succeed. The momentum is off and as a result it never really manages to immerse you in this dangerous world, nor even get that sense of danger across. The pivotal character of the child psychiatrist mysteriously is forgotten half way through, and even Chihiro whom the film was meant to centre around is decidedly absent for long stretches when the second half reveals that actually, there are two other characters we should also be spending a bit of time on. This had the potential to be epic in scale with a realistic lead in the psychic, drawing our attention and evoking our empathy as she struggles to save this girl with a mysterious and dark streak, but we never really see any of that; we only see glimpses of a fraction of her personalities and learn nothing of the psychics past. For all it could have been, all it really succeeds in being is a fragmented film that couldn't find its way.