Reincarnation is about a group of filmmakers who decided to make a movie about a massacre that happened at a rural hotel. Thirty-five years earlier, college professor Norihasa Omori visited the hotel with his video camera and two children. During the course of his day he stabs his wife and kills 11 people, including his own children, before committing suicide. The crime was so awful that the hotel shut its doors forever.
Of course, the director of the film wants the whole cast to visit the abandoned hotel to get the creative juices flowing (I guess). Anyone who has seen a movie like this knows where this is going. As the filming for the infamous slaughter gets underway the lead actress, Nagisa, starts to get grisly visions. She very soon starts to believe that she is the reincarnation of one of the murder victims in her visions, visions that can manifest themselves while she sleeps, or even as lucid dreams as she’s merrily going about her day.
They’re…They’re not nice visions.
Meanwhile, other people connected to the film are having similar experiences of deja vu and there are reports of people going missing, including one of the other actresses that auditioned for Nagisa’s role. As the movie progresses Nagisa’s visions get stronger and stronger (and more graphic), and she is reluctantly lead towards the terrifying truth of what happened that fateful day 35 years ago.
Perhaps it’s best you don’t know.
The more I watch movies like this, the more I come to realize that Japanese ghosts must be the assholes of the spiritual realm. Seriously, these guys just give, like, zero fucks. Most western ghost (not poltergeist, ghost) stories involve some benign way to help the ghost find peace.
“Please find my body to give me a proper burial.”
“Tell So-n-So I loved them/It’s not their fault.”
“This is my house, stay the hell out of it, or so help me I’ll….”
… Alright, admittedly that last one doesn’t typically end up being so benign, but usually if you just get the hell out of the haunted house you’re occupying the Western ghosts will leave your ass alone. But not the Japanese ghosts. Oh, no. Those bastards will track your ass down and make your life a living hell if they so much as get an inkling you gave the block their ancestors lived on a funny look. And the ones here are no different. In fact, I’d argue these are even worse since most of the people they end up abducting are blissfully going about their day with no idea of the horrors that happened to them in their previous life. Hell, one poor girl gets abducted right in the middle of the damn library.
Dammit! All I wanted was a reference book!
That’s just cold.
Again, these ghosts are supposedly supposed to be the specters of their former lives (I’d almost consider that a spoiler, but the title of the movie sort of gives it away). Which means their past lives don’t give a damn that they’re pulling their happy, future selves into the spiritual/underworld just for the sake of a climactic ending. Of course this also begs the question of exactly how one’s own reincarnated soul, or any reincarnated soul really, can abduct them. Are they abducting themselves? Shouldn’t they be somehow occupied with their current life? Did their soul split in two? How the hell is this working? Are they dead now too, or will they somehow come back after the credits roll? These are questions that remain unanswered.
It’s hard to tell if they’re dead, or waiting for the mall to open.
Those hoping for copious amounts of gore are going to be disappointed. Despite a couple bloody scenes, this movie is far from gruesome. Like a lot of Japanese horror movies, Reincarnation’s focus leans more towards unsettling atmosphere and creepy imagery and I’d argue it did a very good job of that. This was a movie made on a smaller budget, so subtly here is king. It’s the kind of film you can watch a second or third time and still pick up hints that you didn’t notice before. Lighting, in particular, is used to good effect.
There are a lot of familiar formulas used in Reincarnation, from the abandoned location of the slaughter, to the familiar camera angles, to the creepy little girl (the Japanese just love creepy little children) and even to the zombie-like reincarnations themselves. But there are enough twists here to keep things from being too formulaic. Though the horror conventions may be familiar, there are enough plot twists and turns that they do manage to lead to an entertaining climax. A climax that involves ghosts, and zombies (at least I think they’re zombies) and death, where the lines between the real world and paranormal world start to collapse upon themselves… Oh, and a creepy, demonic doll.
Because of course there’s a creepy, demonic doll.
Horror veterans will still see much of the plot coming a mile away, but I think even the most seasoned horror buffs will find a surprise or two during the last 15 minutes.
Reincarnation is not for everyone. This is a movie helmed by Ju-On director Shimizu Takashi. So if that wasn’t your cup of tea, then you probably won’t find too much to like here. Nor will those who do not enjoy a slow build up. But still, for all its faults, it’s still a well-realized film with great atmosphere and the ability to occasionally get under your skin.
If you enjoy Japanese horror movies, feel free to give this one a go.
Reincarnation is available to rent on a variety of platforms, including Amazon, Youtube, iTunes and Google Play.
It is also available on DVD.