Sunday, October 31, 2010

A chilling tale of future deaths revealed

Premonition (aka "Yogen" [original Japanese title])
Starring: Hiroshi Mikama, Noriko Sakai, and Hana Inoue
Director: Norio Tsuruta
Rating: Seven of Ten Stars

College lecturer Hideki Satome (Mikama) finds himself haunted by newspapers that report the future instead of the past. His wife Ayaka (Sakai) initially believes he has been driven mad with grief and guilt over the death of their daughter Nana (Inoue) in a freak accident, because he insists he saw the death announced in a newspaper before it occured. However, Ayaka soon discovers that others have supposedly seen these newspapers that foretell the future, and as she and Hideki attempt to seek out these people, their lives go from ones of quiet tragedy to raging horror.

"Premonition" is a well-done horror movie that relies on good acting, expert pacing, and some fine filmmaking to generate its tension and scares. There is only one bit that can be considered gory--everything else generated by old-fashioned filmmaking. The movie kept me engaged for the entire running time, and I felt for the two main characters (even if the pathos-tinged melodrama surrounding their relationship got slathered on a bit thick at times). There were even a few good scares, including a really well done "Boo!"-type scare. These days, those tend to annoy me more than anything in new films, because they are usually cliched, but here it worked and it genuinely startled me. The film also deals nicely with what essentially is an undefeatable and incomprehensible menace that the characters have chosen to go up against... at no time did I get the "This is really dumb" vibe like I got from "Final Destination", which tackles a similar subject but does so very badly.

Despite all the things that worked well in this film, it is burdened by its utter predictability. I pretty much called every plot development as the film unfolded and nothing surprised me, including what I'm sure was supposed to be a clever twist ending. (It was spooky, but it was also completely predictable.) Actually, the film probably should have ended a few seconds before it did... I think it would have been stronger if the filmmakers hadn't added a bit at the end that was there to heighten creep factor, but I think it was too open for interpretation to really work. And, I'm sorry, but I won't label it "thought provoking" when everything that led up that moment was exactly what I expected from this sort of story.

In final analysis, "Premonition" is a very well-done film. It's expertly paced, the actors to a great job, and the use of sound, music, lighting all combine to make this a fine bit movie-viewing, despite a predictable script... at least for the likes of me, who has seen waaaay too many horror films and read waaaay tooo many issues of "House of Mystery" ["Premonition" is based on a horror comic story titled "The Newspaper of Terror"] in my day. Not to mention having written a couple of RPG scenarios very similar in nature to the plot of the film.) I think it's worth seeing if you like well-wrought horror movies.

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