On hiatus from his day job churning out new installments of the Grudge franchise, Shimizu’s Marebito is an asynchronous mash-up of half-developed ideas. Like the Escher prints festooning the walls of its freelance videographer/voyeur Masuoka (a lazy nod to the increasingly automatic audience surrogating of any movie character with a camera — we need a new metacinematic shorthand, stat) its primary goal is to confound. Masuoka’s drive to record ultimate terror — inspired by his filming of a gory suicide — leads him below the Tokyo subway, to a prelingual teenage girl whose diet, he discovers after adopting her, consists entirely of blood. The murders Masuoka subsequently commits to feed her (fulfilling their father-daughter Little Shop of Horrors dynamic) recall Peeping Tom; unsettling hiccups in the array of video equipment in Masuoka’s apartment evoke Pulse’s generation of ghost-in-the-machine creep-outs. Marebito’s rare-to-bleeding antecedents reveals Shimizu’s disinterest in shaping them into a cohesive statement.
Masuoka is played, intuitively, by Shinya Tsukamoto, a director whose films, especially the criminally underseen Vital, twist the same Asian-Extreme vocabulary that Shimizu rifles through into surprising, penetrating statements of modern uncertainty. His presence is a reminder of everything Marebito isn’t.
Opens December 9 at Angelika Film Center