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Monsterz ("Monsutazu")

Canadian Premiere
  • Japan
  • 2014
  • 111 mins
  • DCP
  • Japanese
  • English (subtitles)
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1993. An angered father beats up his wife, trying to convince her to abandon their abomination of a child, who happens to be observing the scene nearby. The violence triggers his son’s frightening abilities: mind control at a mere glance. Protective blindfolds off, the child takes possession of his violent father and drives him outside where he collapses, forced to snap his own neck. Cut to the present day and the super-powered kid is now a reclusive, sociopathic and well-to-do criminal (Tatsuya Fujiwara of SHIELD OF STRAW, DEATH NOTE), robbing banks as he sees fit and for kicks, forcing people to commit suicide. When he randomly encounters the sociable and cheerful mover Shuichi Tanaka (Takayuki Yamada of THE MOLE SONG, GANTZ, CROWS ZERO), he is frightened for the first time, realizing he is unable to control him. Throwing him under a bus, he thinks he is rid of the anomaly. Yet Tanaka recovers, spectacularly in fact, and the sociopath grows increasingly fascinated. Opposites attract, they say, and in Tanaka, the monster has found a nemesis he must eliminate. Quickly targeting Tanaka’s close friends and co-workers, the confrontation soon becomes quite personal… and interesting, as Tanaka discovers his own abilities.

If the plot sounds familiar, it is because with MONSTERZ, cult director Hideo Nakata (RINGU, DARK WATER, L: SAVE THE WORLD) offers a remake of the 2010 South Korean film HAUNTERS. Fret not, however! In this rare remake to actually improve on the original film, Nakata ups the ante and cranks everything up a notch, complementing HAUNTERS’s pulpy revisionist vibe (à la UNBREAKABLE) with a subtle, darker sensibility, all the while retaining key elements from the director’s seminal horror work. Furthermore, Nakata considerably expands on the possibilities of the premise, and expertly builds towards a stunningly complex and greatly choreographed finale, blowing the simple car chase of the previous film right out of the water. The casting of two strong lead actors is also a wise decision, as Tatsuya Fujiwara and Takayuki Yamada prove great opposite each other, rivaling Gang Dong-won and Ko Soo in both star power and screen presence. (Nakata had his crew watch Michael Mann’s HEAT, as such is the magnitude of the confrontation between the two). Living up to the original, and beyond, MONSTERZ is a welcome departure from the J-horror genre Nakata pioneered and a modern-day, cape-less superhero thrill ride, for fans of the directors and the uninitiated alike.

— Ariel Esteban Cayer