CreepyOften, the greatest threat to the success of a thriller is an insistence on providing answers in the second half of the movie to the questions that have been skillfully raised in the first half. Not knowing is invariably more suspenseful than having your suspicions confirmed. Such is the case with the new Japanese film Creepy that had its world premiere in Berlin in February. For the first hour, the movie successfully navigates between two distinct storylines, but when the plots begin to converge, the entire effort unravels. The last half hour of this too long film (130 minutes) is a chore to get through. Director Kyoshi Kurosawa, best known for J horror standards including Pulse, Loft, and The Cure, takes too long to get where we know he’s going and then doesn’t seem to have a very good idea of what to do once he gets there.

Creepy starts in a manner reminiscent of the Chinese mystery Black Coal, Thin Ice that won the Competition at the 2014 Berlinale. A poor decision by a police detective in the course of an investigation leads to his own injury and the deaths of others. Years later, the detective, who subsequently left the force, is lured back into an investigation. The detective in Creepy, Takakura (Hideyoshi Nishijima), is the police force’s expert on serial killers, a fledgling field of study in Japan. He becomes a college lecturer after the incident, until circumstances bring him to reexamine a cold case involving the disappearance of a family under mysterious circumstances.

At the same time, Takakura and his wife Yasuko (Yuko Takeuchi), are adjusting to a new house and new, strange neighbors who are resistant to even the basic strictures of Japanese politeness. In fact, the one neighbor, Nishino (Teruyuki Kagawa), who lives in the house next door with his teenage daughter and an unseen wife, could accurately be described as creepy. His encounters with Yasuko escalate in uncomfortableness at the same time that Takakura becomes more deeply involved in his investigation.

When there is no tangible connection between the two stories other than the idea that we can never really know the people next door, Creepy works. When the teenage girl next door confesses a dark secret to Takakura, the tension begins to seep out of the story, and we wait impatiently for a series of expected scenes leading to an inevitable conclusion. What makes the experience more irritating is that the movie relies on coincidence, dumb cops, and the absence of anyone standing up and saying, “Hey, I know what’s going on here.”

Even with its fatal flaws, Creepy has some strong points in its favor. Director Kurosawa’s visual style is well suited to the genre. The image of a body being vacuum sealed is hauntingly effective. The movie also boasts a great bad guy who makes the crime plausible if not the series of coincidences. Overall, however, this is paper-thin Hitchcock with a sudden and unsatisfying ending that does not justify the investment of time and attention that precedes it.

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