Every place where people live has a history, and events from that history can affect those living there today. Director Nakamura Yoshihiro and screenwriter Suzuki Kenichi take that premise and add a ghostly spin to it in The Inerasable (Zange: Sunde wa ikenai heya) (2015 / Fantasia 2016), which can bee seen at the 2016 Fantasia International Film Festival in Toronto, Canada. In the film, a horror/mystery writer solicits suggestions for stories from her readers, and when a student contacts her regarding strange noises in the student’s apartment, the two team up to find the source of the haunting. They end up tracing a long chain of connected events and hauntings that reach into the past. The film has an unusual structure, with a voiceover from the writer giving it feel like a docu-drama at times. The chain of stories allows the filmmakers to explore various ghost story tropes and play with creepy imagery, but the overall impact is a bit lessened by the low budget nature of some of the effects. The film does tend to lose a bit of focus toward as things progress with the sheer number of ideas explored. While the structure of the film and its central premise of a chain of hauntings provides interest, the film is ultimately undone by a lackluster execution.
The Inerasable follows a horror/mystery novelist simply referred to as “I” (Takeuchi YÃ»ko), as she narrates most of the film in first person. She solicits ideas for her stories from amongst her fans, and receives a particularly intriguing letter from an architectural student, Kobu (Hashimoto Ai) detailing strange sounds coming from an empty room in her apartment. The narrator suspects that it may be an actual haunting, perhaps related to a previous tenant. Kobu and the narrator collaborate on an investigation, first via correspondence, and later together in person. Finding similar incidents in other apartments within the same block leads them to conclude that perhaps the source of the haunting is not from a previous tenant but from what was on that land prior to the apartment block. Kobu’s studies give her access to planning documents showing the history of the site, and the two begin tracing things back. After tracing the haunting to its supposed source, they find that the event that triggered the haunting was itself possibly set in motion by an even older supernatural incident. Much like Alice heading down the rabbit hole, the narrator and Kobu continue to find older and older incidents in the chain. They encounter a variety of supernatural phenomena, from ghosts, to demons, to ethereal babies, to haunted paintings, and more. Along the way, their investigative team grows to include the narrator’s novelist husband Naoto (TakitÅ Kenichi), writer Hiraoka Yoshiaki (Sasaki Kuranosuke), and young psychic Misawa Tetsuo (Sakaguchi KentarÃ´). Will their research lead them to the true source of the haunting, or will they get caught up in the story themselves?
One of the themes of The Inerasable seems to be that we do not live in an isolated moment of time, but that our stories are intimately connected to the stories of those that came before us, and the structure of the film helps to serve that theme. The novelist “I” provides voiceover narration, much like one would hear in a television show such as Unsolved Mysteries. This gives the beginning of the film an almost documentary or docu-drama feel. The narrator is removed from the action, simply reporting what is going on with not much emotion. Some comments she makes even feel like they are a bit of a deconstruction of modern ghost stories, with the narrator relating insights along the lines of, “In this point in a ghost story, this event would be expected to happen.” Initially, she keeps her distance, only communicating with Kobu by letter. As the investigation progresses, the narrator meets with Kobu and they take a more hands-on approach. Following the chain of stories and events brings the narrator and Kobu closer to the story. The approach becomes less like documentary and more like a traditional narrative. By the end, the narrator, Kobu, and the rest of their team are fully involved with the action; they become part of the story itself.
The chain of stories in The Inerasable is fairly long, which is in service to its theme, but also makes it lengthy enough that the film loses focus. One of the characters even comments on this very thing, saying that they have lost track of the point of it all. Viewers may find themselves at a place in the story asking how they got where they are, as well. Another problem is the sheer number of stories means that most of them are not given adequate time to be fully explored. It almost feels like many of them are mere story outlines and not complete tales. Perhaps the film would have been better off with fewer, but more fleshed-out, segments. Then again, the sheer number of tales in the chain is crucial to the theme. In that case, perhaps this may have been better served as a television anthology series than as a feature film.
Following a chain of stories allows the filmmakers to play with a variety of ghostly and supernatural tropes. Creepy imagery abounds. While each story is connected to the preceding and following stories, they each center on and explore a different supernatural concept. Sometimes the frightening images are obvert, directly menacing the characters, but other times, there are chilling images are more subtly placed in the background. Unfortunately, in a number of cases, the concept explored in a particular segment has a strong potential for chills, but the execution leaves much to be desired. High end special effects are not always a necessary, but particularly shoddy ones can derail an otherwise solidly scary idea. For example, an element of one of the stories involves a character that has visions of babies coming up through the floor. The description presented in the film is frightening enough on its own. It is only when the filmmakers choose to actually show the ethereal floor-babies that the effect is diminished. It is sometimes better to leave some things unseen.
The interconnection of the living with those that came before is a theme of The Inerasable, and the unusual structure of the film helps to reinforce that. The narrator goes from a clinical, disconnected view of events to becoming part of the story. Unfortunately, the film loses focus by trying to fit in so many tales that most are not fleshed out sufficiently. The film is further hampered by the use of subpar special effects in some scenes where it may have been more prudent to have left the threats unseen. In the end, the potential shown by the unusual structure of The Inerasable is limited by its less than stellar execution, leaving the film to be mostly a curiosity, and not much more.
The Inerasable (0 / 5)