This Halloween, Sunday, October 25 through Saturday, October 31, the Roxie brings San Francisco a whole week of modern Japanese horror classics. Since the late ’80s, American audiences have been increasingly spooked by stories of surreal spirits, malevolent technological forces and sadistic torture from across the Pacific. While films like “Kairo” (“Pulse”) and “Ju-Om: The Grudge” were remade by Hollywood with limited success, the Roxie brings the scares of the original Japanese movies, alongside artistically intense works by acclaimed directors such as Takashi Miike and Sion Sono.
- “Audition”: This disturbing Japanese thriller follows Aoyama (Ryo Ishibashi), a widower who decides to start dating again. Aided by a film-producer friend (Jun Kunimura), Aoyama uses auditions for a fake production to function as a dating service. When Aoyama becomes intrigued by the withdrawn, gorgeous Asami (Eihi Shiina), they begin a relationship. However, he begins to realize that Asami isn’t as reserved as she appears to be, leading to gradually increased tension and a harrowing climax. Directed by Takashi Miike,115min, 1999, Japan, 35mm. Playing Sun/Wed/Thu/Fri.
- “Ju-On: The Grudge”: “The Grudge” follows volunteer homecare worker Rika Nishida (Megumi Okina), whose altruism leads her to Chiharu (Yui Ichikawa), a catatonic old woman slowly dying in a home filled with years worth of accumulated filth. Rika’s suspicion is aroused when, during the course of her volunteer duties, she can’t help but sense an overwhelming feeling of dread. Eventually, Rika opens an old wardrobe only to discover a malevolent boy who introduces himself as Toshio (Yuya Ozeki). It seems as though the house was formerly occupied by a young couple, Katsuya (Kanji Tsuda), Chiharu’s son, and his wife, Kazumi (Risa Matsuda). Sadly, Kazumi was killed thanks to Toshio shortly after moving in, and it wasn’t long before Katsuya met a similar fate. When one of Rika’s colleagues alerts the local authorities, an investigation turns the house inside out and exposes an ancient and deadly history. Directed by Takashi Shimizu, 92min, 2002, Japan. Playing Sun/Tu/Wed/Sat.
- “Kairo” (“Pulse”): Often referred to as one of the scariest films ever made, “Pulse” tells the story of a group of young friends rocked by the sudden suicide of one of their own, and his subsequent, ghostly reappearance in grainy computer and video images. Is he trying to contact them from beyond the grave or is there something more sinister afoot? The mysterious floppy disk they find in the dead man’s apartment may provide a clue, but instead launches a program that seems to present odd, ethereal transmissions of people engaged in solitary activities in their apartments. But there is something not quite right in the appearance and behavior of these lonely souls. Soon, there are more strange deaths and disappearances within the group, terrifying rooms sealed in red tape, and the appearance of more ghosts as the city of Tokyo – and the world – is slowly drained of life. Directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa, 118min, 2001, Japan. Playing Sun/Mon/Tu/Thu/Sat.
- “Noriko’s Dinner Table”: This film constitutes a follow-up with thematic similarities and loose narrative connections (though not a direct sequel) to Japanese filmmaker Sion Sono’s dark 2002 satire “Suicide Club”. The time-fractured narrative weaves the gothic tale of the two backward Shimbara sisters, teenagers Yuka (Yuriko Yoshitaka) and Noriko (Kazue Fukiishi). The girls inadvertently become enslaved to a website, Hayiko.com, that represents a front for a perverse theatrical group, “The Family Circle”, whereby young girls are hired by clients to act out bizarre fantasies. As a product of becoming implicated in the site, the sisters lose the ability to recognize their own identities; one is brainwashed by being forced to watch the mass suicide of 54 young Japanese girls from the earlier Suicide Club. The picture ultimately descends into blood-soaked carnage involving the titular table and a bevy of inanimate domestic objects. Ever the formalist, Sono divides his recit into a quintet of segments, and labels four of five with the names of key characters, each of whom narrates his or her “chapter” in voice-over. Directed by Sion Sono, 153min, 2005, Japan. Playing Sun/Thu/Sat.
- “Tetsuo: The Ironman”: This film tells a horrific, cyberpunk-influenced, science fiction tale about the intersection of man and post-industrial technology. The central character is a Japanese salary man, an average office worker who is transformed by a brief encounter with a metals fetishist, a man who has purposefully implanted pieces of scrap metal in his body. The salary man soon begins sprouting pieces of metal from various parts of his body, a change which is accompanied by increasingly nightmarish visions and bizarre, metal-filled sexual fantasies. As the man evolves into a strange hybrid of man and machine, he also develops a telepathic connection with another of his kind: the metal fetishist, who has been undergoing a similar conversion, and may indeed be the cause of the salary man’s transformation. The two engage in a violent, destructive battle throughout the streets of Tokyo, accompanied by an appropriately industrial soundtrack. Directed by Shinya Tsukamoto, 67min, 1989, Japan. Playing Sun/Mon/Tu/Wed.
For more information, contact Roxie or call 415-431-3611