“Creepy” (BIFAN 2016):  Japanese Thriller Lives Up to Its Title Thanks to a Disturbing Villain

Teruyuki Kagawa gives a masterful, absolutely chilling performance as an unnerving yet hypnotic villain in director Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s remarkable psychological thriller Creepy (Japan, 2015). The famed director of Japanese  horror classics Cure (1997) and Pulse (2001) delivers one of the most well-crafted and unnerving cinematic experiences of the year in his latest outing.

Koichi Takakura (Hidetoshi Nishijima) retires from active duty as a detective when a hostage negotiation he is involved with goes wrong. He finds a position as a university lecturer and moves to a quiet rural town with his wife Yasuko (Yuko Takeuchi, who horror fans may recognize from Ringu [1998]). When they try to greet their new neighbors, they are turned away and their gifts are refused. Their next-door neighbor Nishino (Teruyuki Kagawa) seems like a real oddball who can go from charming to offputting and weird to hostile in a heartbeat.

Former detective Koichi Takakura (Hidetoshi Nishijima) pours wine for new next-door neighbor Nishino (Teruyuki Kagawa) as Nishino’s daugther Mio (Ryoko Fujino, left) and Koichi’s wife Yasuko (Yuko Takeuchi) look on in Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s  thriller Creepy.

Nogami (Masahiro Higashide), a former assistant of Takakura’s, asks the retired detective for his help in investigating a six-year-old cold case in which all but one member of a family disappeared. Saki (Haruna Kawaguchi), the daughter of the missing Honda family, is reluctant to help the men uncover the truth about what happened to her relatives.

As Takakura delves deeper into the Honda family case, Yasuko becomes more involved with the mystery of their strange neighbor. Nishino eerily invites her to meet his wife inside their home. When a teenage girl named Mio (Ryoko Fujino) claims to be Nishino’s daughter and then later denies that he is her father, matters get even more complicated. Takakura, Yasuko, and various other characters are soon to find out what deadly secrets are hidden in Nishino’s home.

Though Creepy is a thriller and not an outright horror film, it has plenty to offer for horror fans. Teruyuki Kagawa’s Nishino is one of the great screen villains in recent memory, with his blood-curdling sneers, malevolent smiles, and unnerving stares. He can show a charming side, but that can disappear with the mere movement of a few facial muscles. The gruesome goings-on inside his humble abode are disturbing, indeed. The film holds a healthy helping of mystery, but not in the traditional whodunit sense. Instead, viewers have a disconcerting feeling from the first time we see the enigmatic Nishino that he is up to something, but the puzzle lies in exactly what he gets up to, and how he pulls off his horrific deeds.

Yasuko (Yuko Takeuchi) tries to make sense of neighbor Nishino’s (Teruyuki Kagawa) odd questions and invitations.

Performances from the ensemble cast are solid throughout, and Kiyoshi Kurosawa – who cowrote the screenplay with Chihiro Ikeda, based on the novel Kuripi by Yutaka Maekawa –  paces the film perfectly, letting viewers get to know the protagonists well before ratcheting up the suspense. The only fault I find with Creepy is that, as well developed as the characters are, a couple of them make nonsensical decisions that wouldn’t make sense in the real world. That’s a small quibble about what is otherwise a well thought-out and beautifully presented chiller.

As an experienced horror director, Kiyoshi Kurosawa takes his time as he basks in the disturbing reveal of Nishino’s secrets. Cinematographer Akiko Ashizawa serves up unflinching work. The film’s sound design and Yuri Habuka’s score are subtle; sudden shocks are magnified because of this unique approach.

If a film truly earned its title this year, it is Creepy. Kiyoshi Kurosawa has successfully transplanted the unbalanced, frightening feelings from the supernatural worlds of his earlier horror efforts to a more reality-based setting. This thriller is a marvelous new entry in the director’s oeuvre and has earned itself a spot on my list of favorite films of the year.

Creepy had its Korean premiere at the 20th Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival (BIFAN) in South Korea (July 21-31, 2016).

Creepy: 4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)


Joseph Perry
Joseph Perry fell in love with horror films as a preschooler when he first saw the Gill-Man swim across the TV screen in "The Creature from The Black Lagoon" and Mothra battle Godzilla in "Godzilla Vs. The Thing.” His education in fright fare continued with TV series such as "The Twilight Zone" and "Outer Limits," along with legendary northern California horror host Bob Wilkins’ "Creature Features." His love for silver age and golden age comic books, including horror titles from Gold Key, Dell, and Marvel started around age 5.

He is a contributing writer for the "Phantom of the Movies VideoScope" and “Drive-In Asylum” print magazines and the websites Horror Fuel, Diabolique Magazine, The Scariest Things, B&S About Movies, and When It Was Cool. He is a co-host of the "Uphill Both Ways" pop culture nostalgia podcast and also writes for its website. Joseph occasionally proudly co-writes articles with his son Cohen Perry, who is a film critic in his own right.

A former northern Californian and Oregonian, Joseph has been teaching, writing, and living in South Korea since 2008.