Black Kiss (2004)

Sometimes a film just works. And although, on the surface at least, Black Kiss doesn't seem to offer anything different from the ever-growing pile of serial killer movies out there, it's been put together with such skill that it succeeds where so many others have failed. Quite simply, this film has managed to singlehandedly revive my flagging interest in Japanese cinema, which is not a feat to be scoffed at.

Okay. So, the basic plot sees an aspiring model, Asuka, moving in with a strange acquaintance, Kasumi; more out of necessity than choice, really, because Kasumi's flat is in a part of town you'd not want to find yourself in after dark, and Kasumi herself... well, she's a bit odd, let's put it that way. Somehow, unlikely as it seemed, the two girls become close friends -- and their bond is strengthened by the fact that they both witness a murder happening in the hotel across the street.

Unfortunately for them, it's a particularly grisly and complicated murder: a young man has been butchered, literally ripped apart with various pagan symbols carved into his skin. Chicken blood is found elsewhere in the apartment, as well as the severed finger of the woman he entered the room with; but she's nowhere to be found, and when the police arrive on the scene, the doors and windows to the room are locked from the inside. Kasumi, by virtue of her troubled past and long-standing grudge against the unfortunate couple in the hotel room, becomes the prime suspect - but something far, far more sinister is going on, and Kasumi and Asuka are in rather a lot of danger...

The first thing that's noticeable about Black Kiss is how stylish it is. Rather like Ichi The Killer in some ways, several scenes are horrifically gory, but so stylised that you almost want to look at them anyway. The city is defined by rainstorms and neon signs, and the main cast members are all very pretty (Battle Royale's Masanobu Ando makes an appearance, and he's still pretty like a girl too), which never hurts. But happily, they're also interesting, as well as being pretty, and the mystery itself is pretty intriguing: people turn up in photographs taken weeks after they've been murdered, all the killings are ritualistic, and there's some damned impressive taxidermy going on; and all that is topped off by one of the creepiest, and strangest, villains I've seen for a long time.

There's a moment in Black Kiss which is genuinely as scary as any in any Asian horror movie you care to name; and though the ending isn't entirely satisfactory, since it doesn't really answer all the questions or solve the mystery properly, this is still a really, really, really good film.

IMDB link

4 comments:

Axe said...

Highly unlikely I'll get my mits on it here in the anus of the world, but if I do, I'll be sure to check it out.

Seen a flick called REEKER? Kinda liked the boring masquerade until the end blew me away!

Sarah Dobbs said...

I have indeed, in a post-Hostel rush of affection for Derek Richardson. There's a review here, but I don't think I liked it as much as you did! :)

soulmining said...

I haven't come across this Asian gem yet but it sounds good, so will have to check it out... is it out on DVD in the UK or just on import?

Sarah Dobbs said...

According to Amazon, it was released in the UK on 21st May. They reckon it'll take 4-6 weeks to send it out, though, but it must exist somewhere...

Temporarily out of stock on Play.com. Hmmmm. Weird.