‘The Inerasable’: Tokyo Review

A terrible curse dogs innocent renters in Yoshihiro Nakamura’s adaptation of Fuyumi Ono’s popular horror novel.

For all those who have wondered, even briefly, whether their new home may be haunted, The Inerasable (Zange: Sunde wa ikenai heya) furnishes disturbing evidence that it’s better to relocate immediately. Beginning with a simple, haunted student apartment, Fuyumi Ono’s award-winning horror novel expands to the whole neighborhood and beyond like spilled soy sauce. Unfortunately, Yoshihiro Nakamura’s screen adaptation avails itself of the book’s involving if convoluted story-within-a-story plotting, but somehow fails to raise goose bumps. His tightly-woven network of amateur ghost busters keeping in close touch on their cell phones just feels too safe.  Nowhere approaching the creepiness of The Snow White Murder Case, the director’s murder mystery for the Twitter generation, this well-made, literate spook story with historical-political pretensions was a comfy fit in competition at the Tokyo film festival, but should quickly move to small screens after Shochiku releases theatrically in January.

The first-person narrator is a female novelist specialized in ghost stories, played with glasses and serious intellectual aplomb by star Yuko Takeuchi. Between meetings with her editor and house-hunting with her husband, she answers fan mail that includes a generous helping of ghost sightings. One that attracts her attention is from Ms. Kubo (Ai Hashimoto), an architecture student who has been hearing strange swishing sounds coming from the bedroom of her apartment. As though a woman wearing a kimono had hung herself, with a long obi belt trailing on the floor.

The Bottom Line

<p>A nicely constructed tale, but too tame to scare anybody.</p>

Kubo, who is as courageous as she is bright – not to mention an active e member of the college mystery club – decides to look into the history of her building. Landlords in Japan are held to full disclosure to tenants about suicides and murders on the premises, which bring down the rent considerably, but there is no record of either. The unexplained nuisance continues, however, and Kubo enlists the narrator’s help in getting to the bottom of it.

The set-up is perfect, but the action never switches on. Instead, a baffling series of interconnected mysteries is revealed, one after the other. There are noises in the apartment next door and on another floor. Research by an extended team of the writer’s acquaintances turns up a demented grandmother, a violent boy who starts fires, a serial baby killer and a rich old eccentric who stuffed his house with smelly garbage bags. Yet virtually all of them remain off screen. So despite all the ominous whispering about the Japanese word kegare, meaning evil, dirty, bad and impure, the director squeezes precious few thrills out of it. In the end the viewer just gives up and tries to follow the curse as it passes from one generation to the next, striking this tenant or that one with little or no logic.

Cinematographer Yukihiro Okimura gives the characters, who eventually include a whole team of intrepid ghost busters, a pre-Raphaelite look on their softly lit faces surrounded by dark shadows. The buzzy whites subliminally suggest a connection to low-budget, blown-up horror films, which are basically the opposite of The Inerasable. This lends some forced atmosphere, but not enough.
Production company: Happinet Corporation
Cast:  Yuko Takeuchi, Ai Hashimoto, Kentaro Sakaguchi, Kenichi Takito, Kuranosuke Sasaki
Director: Yoshihiro Nakamura
Screenwriter: Kenichi Suzuki
Producers: Yoshihiro Nakamura, Fumitsugu Ikeda
Director of photography: Yukihiro Okimura
Production designer: Tomoyuki Maruo
Music: Goro Yasukawa
World sales: Shochiku  
No rating,  107 minutes