[Review] Door [Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival]: Death from a Salesman Comes Calling in This Vintage Japanese Horror Feature

Director Banmei Takahashi’s Japanese shocker Door  may have been released in 1988 and had a host of home invasion thrillers from around the world follow it, but watching its new international 4K remastering release as part of Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival, it felt fresh and I had a blast with it. 

Tokyo housewife Yasuko Honda (Keiko Takahashi, the director’s wife) has a workaholic husband named Saturo (Shirô Shimomoto) who has been called away for out-of-town duty for a few days, so she is home alone with her elementary-school–age son Takuto (Takuto Yonezu). Already fed up with the frequent intrusions of door-to-door salesmen, because of whom she keeps her door locked and latched, she is highly frustrated when salesman Yamakawa (Daijirô Tsutsumi) slips his hand through her chained door to offer a brochure. She slams the door on his hand, instantly making an enemy of the man, who becomes bent on revenge.

From that simple set-up, Banmei Takahashi — who cowrote the screenplay with Ataru Oikawa — delivers a master class in suspense, as Yamakawa begins a mission of payback that grows increasingly deadly. One scene that is an early-on example of the rising tension of the film begins with Takuto witnessing the front door handle quietly moving up and down after Yasuko asks him to fetch the newspaper from the mail slot. This situation builds into a tug-of-war power display over the newspaper between Yasuko and Yamakawa.

Banmei Takahashi does a marvelous job with framing. A beautifully shot chase scene within the Honda’s apartment is shot from overhead, which simultaneously plays with viewers’ willing suspension of disbelief while heightening the tension as we watch the action unfold without a ceiling but with door and wall frames exposed to us. Plenty of the red stuff is on display, along with a sudden shot that — by my estimation — needed to be filmed in black-and-white at the time because of the gore on display. Cinematographer Yasushi Sasakibara does a brilliant job of capturing those scenes and others, including bringing viewers uncomfortably close to the proceedings in some instances.

An added element of fun is seeing the technology that was cutting-edge in 1988 but is charmingly quaint viewed with 2023 eyes. One such piece of equipment is a rather sizable tabletop television remote control that I had never seen before but that may have been popular in Japan back in the day. 

Door has gone rarely unseen since its initial release, and was even considered a lost film for a time. With this superb 4K restoration, though, this creepy slice of Japanese fear fare can delight a new era of unsuspecting cinephiles. 

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

DOOR screened as part of Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival, which took place in Bucheon, South Korea from June 29–July 9, 2023.

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.