Foreign movies frequently get strange translations of their titles. In Japan, Creepy is called Kuriipii. It can’t get much more straightforward or appropriate than that. This is a suburban mystery thriller cum horror cum something that starts as one thing and ends up as something else entirely.
A year after retiring from the police force, Takakura (Hidetoshi Nishijima, Poison Berry In My Brain) moves to a new home with his wife Yasuko (Yuko Takeuchi) and starts teaching criminology. After a visit from an old colleague, he begins to look into the disappearance of three people six years prior. At the same time, he becomes increasingly suspicious of his new neighbour Nishino (Teruyuki Kagawa) who is, frankly, creepy.
Creepy is a patchwork movie, taking liberally from detective films, lazily from domestic drama (if Yasuko is discontent, there’s never any substance to it), and excessively from the cinema of sadism. That none of these elements actually gels at any one moment in the film seems to be entirely behind the point; overall tone is unimportant as long as the viewer is confounded at every step.
Several scenes in Creepy seem to start partway through, sometimes even at the end. The amount of information being withheld from the audience renders large chunks of the story at least temporarily incoherent. Something is going on, we’re unsure what, but it’s presented in such a way that it would be more satisfying to know nothing than the crumbs that are on display.
Writer/director Kiyoshi Kurosawa, adapting from Yutaka Maekawa’s novel with co-writer Chihiro Ikeda, completely flips this in the back end, spelling everything out on screen, utilising an intensity of cinematic shorthand that allows for no ambiguity. It’s unsubtle to the point that you want to shout at the characters “don’t go in there!”, as if they can’t see that they’re clearly walking into a murder basement. It’s set dressing that hits something instinctual in a viewer but is ignored consistently by idiotic screen policemen.
There is no specific catalyst for the mysteries of Creepy opening themselves up to the audience; suddenly we are party to everything that’s happening, even when the motives themselves are opaque, and the movie becomes a parade of unpleasantness that feels like it may never end. For his part, Kagawa is very creepy — his face was custom-built for the role. Nishijima is not bad as Takakura, although the script calls for him to be entirely too handsy with female suspects; as Yasuko, Takeuchi ultimately has little more to do than be a vacant shell.
Creepy is the sort of film that will appeal to the sort of viewer who enjoys deeply unpleasant suburban nightmares with vaguely defined psychological underpinnings. If that’s your wheelhouse, and you can ignore flagrantly unprofessional police procedure, Creepy will work. For everyone else, however, it may just leave a bad taste.
Creepy is screening in Australia as part of the Japanese Film Festival, which tours the country between October 14 and December 4, 2016.
Directed by: Kiyoshi Kurosawa.
Starring: Hidetoshi Nishijima, Yuko Takeuchi and Teruyuki Kagawa.