a review by Elizabeth Vinton
Big thanks to Madman Entertainment for submitting Kyofu for review! Kyofu is the last film in the ‘J-Horror Theatre’ series which includes six productions to showcase some of the best J-Horror directors/producers. The other five films are: Infection, Premonition, Reincarnation, Retribution and Kaidan. I have watched all of the films in the series and find that Kyofu is a fitting end, but not one of the more outstanding films. It is however very odd, beautifully shot and quite an interesting film in its own right. Kyofu is also one of the more disturbing films produced for J-Horror Theatre, akin to Infection and Reincarnation, dealing with some dark themes and with disturbing images including some gore. It is not for the faint-hearted.
A doctor and her husband find some 16mm film reels and the footage on them reveals some secret underground experiments involving brain surgery believed to open the recipients mind and eyes to the ‘other side’. To their horror, their two daughters Miyuki and Kaori unwittingly see some of the film. Years later Miyuki disappears and in the search for her, Kaori delves into her and her sister’s past and how the viewing of that strange film reel has come to affect her family in tragic and horrifying ways.
As I find is common with a lot of Japanese horror/thrillers, the cinematography is stunning in its bleak outlook of the world around the characters, and the choice of shots easily gives you a pervading sense of unease very early on, even when nothing appears to be wrong. The disquiet is instinctive and primal, not camp and manipulative. The use of colour is clever, especially in scenes inside an abandoned hospital, as it was in the other J-Horror Theatre film Infection. It has a pleasing slowburn to begin with and then spirals into an absolute show of mad grotesquerie.
I believe the actors did an amazing job of turning what was an honestly bizarre plot/script into something less melodramatic than it could have been. The storyline could have been better developed, with such an interesting premise and curious characters it could have been very special indeed. Unfortunately it ends up lacking clarity and depth which is a shame. I am still very baffled by the ending and would love to know other viewers’ interpretations!
Despite its weaknesses, if you like the more strange Japanese horror style, or have been following the J-Horror Theatre series or simply enjoy films that rely more on amazing visuals than 100% cohesive plot you will really enjoy Kyofu.
I plan on watching it multiple times to see what more I can learn about its meaning – which one of the many joys I find in watching J-Horror!