Based on Mark McShane?s novel, Séance on a Wet Afternoon (Kôrei), Kiyoshi Kurosawa?s international award-winning thriller stars Kôji Yakusho (Shall We Dance) as Kôji Sato, a sound effects engineer, and Jun Fubuki (Pulse) a... more »s his psychic wife. When a missing young girl escapes her kidnappers and hides in Kôji?s equipment case while he is recording sounds in the woods, the stage is set for a scheme to promote her psychic abilities. But the couple?s hoax goes terrifyingly awry in this unsettling and atmospheric shocker from one of Japan?s new masters of horror.« less
SEANCE, while not among Kurosawa's best, is still worth a lo
M. Sutton | Dallas, USA | 08/18/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Ever since Hideo Nakata's Ringu achieved international acclaim, Japanese film companies have pushed hard to capitalize on that film's success. While much of this effort has, admittedly, produced other high-quality and interesting horror films, even the worthwhile efforts tend to follow set formulaic schemes. Many Japanese directors get so caught up in sleekly packaging mere repeats of previous scare scenes that they forget to experiment or even create a coherent world or story for the horror to occupy. Kiyoshi Kurosawa, however, constantly puts a new spin on the genre. From Cure to Charisma, Kairo to Doppleganger, horror's role in Kurosawa's films is always changing. The ways in which he experiments makes even his weaker efforts, as SEANCE regrettably shows itself to be, required viewing for film enthusiasts.
The film is most interesting in its first half, which is more marital drama than supernatural thriller. Junko Sato (Jun Fubuki) is a medium who, between the seances she performs, works with graduate student Hayakawa (Tsuyoshi Kusanagi) on a study chronically the potential for mediums to help the police in solving serious crimes. Junko's husband, Katsuhiko (Koji Yakusho), is a sound engineer on the way up, having recently finished his first major television project. Unfortunately for him, he leaves a large case unlocked as he records audio near Mount Fuji, and a young kidnapped girl, fleeing from her captor, picks it as a safe hiding place. Without noticing, he locks the case and takes it home with him; the poor girl remains locked inside until Junko, looking into the same kidnapping case at Hayakawa's behest, feels the girl's presence and discovers her unconscious body. She is not yet dead, though this is perhaps unlucky, and Junko leaps at this opportunity to prove, through a hoax, that her abilities are real and useful. The plan seems to work just fine, until the girl mysteriously turns up dead and her ghost begins to haunt the Satos.
What could have been quite an ordinary horror film, or, like the original, a fairly by-the-numbers thriller, under the control of many other directors is made truly interesting with Kiyoshi Kurosawa at the helm. Kurosawa's stated love for American films from the middle of the century is apparent throughout: the characters' lives beat at the slower pace pervading older American films, and the camerawork, pacing, and music suggest other elements of those films. And towards the end of the first hour, when things start to go downhill for our protagonists, Kurosawa creates a fantastically foreboding atmosphere. Things left off-screen are crucial parts of scenes, and somehow Kurosawa keeps their presence etched in our minds. When these elements start to disappear, replaced by an jarringly quicker pace, unconvincing special effects, and a drastic change in the film's focus, SEANCE begins to misfire. The plot is thrown to the wind (at a couple of occasions, it is as if in the world of the film fingerprinting does not exist), and any cohesiveness in characters, too, disappears. Despite all of these problems, Kurosawa keeps his audience glued to the screen and appeals so strongly to base instinct that these intellectual qualms, which seem so obvious in hindsight, must be almost searched for in context.
Only Jun Fubuki gives a performance as believable and multi-faceted as is to be found in most of Kurosawa's other work. This is no fault of the other actors, though, but seems to be inherent in the script. Koji Yakusho's character is, for most of the film, merely a plot device to help demonstrate and develop his wife's character. It is when the film's focus suddenly shifts to him that things begin to feel awkward, though this, also, is none of his fault. Yakusho has a brilliant way of making adrenaline and violence seem natural and almost warranted, and the rare scene where he physically beats the phantom haunting he and his wife could only be pulled of believably by Yakusho. The rest of the cast, including Ren Osugi and Sho Aikawa in brief cameos, all have simple, plot-advancing roles to play and do them well enough, it's just a pity that none of them were given any real opportunities to develop fleshed-out characters.
For the first hour or so, SEANCE is among Kurosawa's most engaging and interestingly approached films. That the second half is so disjointed (not in the deliberate, helpful way of some of Kurosawa's other films like Doppelganger) is therefore more disappointing than if the whole film had been simply mediocre. Still, for a film made within the confines of a made-for-television horror outing, SEANCE is an impressive show of Kurosawa's creativity and talent."
Shaun | Minneapolis, MN USA | 05/12/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"In the city, a little girl is coaxed from a playground and into a waiting automobile of a stranger who has his sights set on a large ransom payoff. Koji Yakusho (Doppleganger, Cure & Kairo) stars as Sato, a humble sound technician who, on a trip to the country to get some "wind sounds" on tape for a coworker, unknowingly becomes involved in the kidnapping. When the police are at a loss for leads in the case, Hayasaka, a psychology/paranormal studies student, takes the initiative to call on Sato's wife Junco (Jun Fubuki), a "medium" with whom Hayasaka has been working with to support his theories, to pour over some of the little girl's personal effects in order to locate her. When she fails to provide help, she allows herself time to re-examine her abilities and to take a respite from her homemaker status by taking a position at a local eatery. Junco begins to have morbid visions on the job, without her usual "paranormal preparations" and decides that her newer, more sensitive abilities are too much to handle at her job. Later that day, back at home, Junco and Sato find suddenly find themselves even further involved.
Kiyoshi Kurosawa's Kourei is loosely based on the tense, gloomy but brilliant film Seance on a Wet Afternoon (1964). Both are based on a Mark McShane novel by the same name. It's remade with a slower, tenser, more methodical manner, which Kurosawa has nearly perfected. We only have to look as far as his masterpieces, Kiaro & Kyua (Cure), to witness a Kurosawa film's natural evolution into a fully realized, and cohesive body of work. Not known for artificially pumping up his films to create mood or action, he's remained true to his style and allowed the movie to progress on it's own accord. That patience may be to Seance's detriment.
I'm afraid Kurosawa's vision in this instance isn't as good as I'd hoped. There are tense, frightening moments, there's no question. The direction is great. There's a scene in the Sato home where Kurosawa uses multiple layers of light and darkness in varying degrees, and among the different doorways and halls to signal an spine-tingling little scene, that borders on, not only directorial, but film greatness. But I think the complete story itself, as far as staying faithful to the original story goes, wasn't quite brought to fruition. Some essential, relevant action and substance has been replaced with Japanese elements that, quite frankly detract from the story. But it was made for Japanese audiences, just like Sarah Michelle Gellar's "Grudge" remake was made for American audiences. There's even one very weird, Doppleganger-esque scene, which I really didn't get at all. It just didn't seem to fit.
I can certainly appreciate a good remake. Everyone should take them for what they are; homages to the originals (in most cases). Kurosawa's direction is reason enough to see Seance. As a compare/ contrast piece against Seance on a Wet Afternoon, it might make an interesting double feature. For the Asian Horror novice, this is as good a place as most to cut your teeth in the genre. "
Slow-paced and Brooding
Dancing Ganesha | Bangalore, India | 04/23/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This film is rather slow-paced, brooding, and a bit dark; however, it is not over-the-top as some other Japanese "Horror" films, and the special effects are often low-key, and sad to say, a bit low-budget at certain times, but this doesn't mar the film (there is one particularly eerie shot of a ghost in this film that I found rather interesting).
I liked this film and would watch it more than once, which means I think it's a good one, but it's not great either. If you're expecting lots of CGI or gore, this is not for you. This film has a deep, meditative quality that is more mysterious than horrifying, which I enjoyed.
Kiyoshi Kurosawa can do no wrong.
Robert P. Beveridge | Cleveland, OH | 01/25/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Séance (Kiyoshi Kurosawa, 2000)
Séance on a Wet Afternoon is one of those staid British suspense pictures that pretty much everyone over thirty has caught at least parts of, either on video, in revivals, or flipping through TV channels on a Saturday afternoon. At this point, it's less a movie than it is a cultural institution. Still, it would probably not be entirely accurate to say that Kiyoshi Kurosawa here takes on Bryan Forbes (Kurosawa himself says in the DVD extras he'd never seen the original adaptation when he was presented with the idea, and only read the book after accepting the commission to do the film). It would probably also not be entirely accurate to say that in such a hypothetical battle, Kurosawa wiped the mat with Forbes.
Koji Yakusho and Jun Fubuki, both of whom previously worked with Kurosawa on Charisma, here play Sato and his wife Junko, taking the roles of Richard Attenborough and Kim Stanley in the original film. I have not read the book, and thus cannot say which version is more faithful to it here, but the fact that these two characters (and that of the hapless victim) exist is the final similarity between the two films, save for the climactic final scene from which it derives its name. Yes, the main plot point is the same: Junko is a psychic who becomes involved in the hunt for a missing girl. One of the two adapters of Mark McShane's book, however, decided to play a bit of "what if...?" with the mechanism of the girl's disappearance, however. The 1964 film presents us Bill/Sato and Myra/Junko as morally two-dimensional at the beginning; there are bad things afoot, and we know where everyone stands. The 2000 film injects another character into the early events and thereby completely changes the moral tenor of the characters; Sato winds up where he is by misadventure rather than by any moral deficiency of his own. We're already on firmer (or slipprier, as it were) ground than we were in 1964 when it comes to making a good movie; Kurosawa then goes on to make the original cop thriller into a flat-out ghost story, something at which Kurosawa excels (viz. the estimable Cure); add in a couple of cameos from the everpresent Ren Osugi (Audition) and Sho Aikawa (Ley Lines) and you've got yourself a pure-D Japanese delight. Could it have been a better movie? Yeah, probably. But is it a good movie as it stands? Definitely. *** ½ "
Good movie-but lacks suspense
vanhubris | Verona Beach, NY | 06/09/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Seance is a fairly good, entertaining movie-but for some reason it lacks any sense of suspense-despite the interesting premise--a kidnapped child is found by a couple who at least think the wife is a genuine psychic--and they then plot to prove her psychic abilities--by providing information they've either planted or know about the child. Their "finding" the child is a real weak part of the film--unless one assumes a child can hide in a trunk and an adult wouldn't notice the extra weight when lifting it. All in all- a decent movie worth watching--but there are better movies available besides the well known "Ju-On" and/or "Ringu"--such as "Chaos" or "Cure" However, if you're a big fan of Asian "horror"--you'll probably want to add this to your collection! "