1 July 2018 | lost-in-limbo
Old school mentality in modern day horror approach.
Remember those HK supernatural comedies from the 1980s through to 1990s involving vampire children, or children spirits? The mid-2000's Japanese low-budget film THE VANISHED is something along those lines, well at least those sub-plots involving mischievous children haunting their parents. Actually... are they vampires, could be ghosts, maybe demons, or possibly demonic vampire ghosts? Anyhow the tone has more in common with modern J-horror, where instead of the broad comedy; it's heavy on brooding horror and subtle mystery. A freelance writer for a trashy magazine finds himself investigating the real deal when he's given a strange case of a dead child missing internal organs, and while investigating the body at the morgue he encounters something unexplainable. This leads him to a small secluded country village, where a group of students 35 years ago on a fieldwork exercise disappeared without a trace, and through a class photo he sees the dead boy was one of them. He looked exactly the same now, as he did 35 years ago.
A spooky rural atmosphere is created, slowly encroaching camerawork heightens the anxiety and the narrative builds up the sorrow and mystery, to only throw it away once the freelance writer learns of the town's secret. There it becomes a bog-standard survival/siege outing of lightweight frights leading onto somewhat of a folktale curse, yet the fascinating legend of the Amanojyaku devil and the angle of what happened to the children 35 years ago is never really investigated. That's why I liked the engaging first half, the oddly ambiguous opening and morgue scene especially, more so than the daft second half of the film. How the story played out felt like I was watching an episode from The X-Files / or Kolchak: The Night Stalker. But it just doesn't make much sense, when we get a metaphorical explanation (involving cuckoo birds) why these supposedly dead children keep on returning to the village every season after the rains. All the story arches seem to set-up a back-story, but never go anywhere with it and if so only adds to lingering shadiness -- like that of the freelance writer (a glum Soko Wada). The script wants draw parallels between him and those cute, clingy children of the damned, but the abandonment characteristics and connections do not work. Some obvious CGI shows up, but the make-up is effective.