We’ve got a special treat for you guys courtesy of our Japanese correspondent, Michael Lovan, who writes in with the first ever review of Rabbit Horror 3D, the latest genre film from Ju-On director Takashi Shimizu.
You’ll find his review inside, while below you can enjoy a pretty fun new TV Spot that’s been airing on Japanese TV.
Starring Mitsushima Hikari, Kagawa Teruyuki, Omori Nao, and Ogawa Tamaki Rabbit Horror 3D is inspired by “Alice in Wonderland,” as the story mainly focuses on a stuffed rabbit from an alternate world. Just to give an outline of the movie, it tells the story of Mitsushima’s brother, who is sent to an alternate world after receiving the rabbit. To retrieve her brother, Mitsushima’s character will unravel the secret behind the animal.
A six-foot tall rabbit prances forward to destination unknown; a boy closely chases behind, mesmerized at how the raindrops around them have suddenly frozen mid-air. They reach a door with only darkness on the other side. The Disney-esque music fades while the boy hesitates. It’s only after the rabbit pushes him into the darkness that Rabbit Horror 3D‘s trajectory is clear: to remind us of the inescapable dread when good dreams turn into nightmares.
This scene left me breathless. It resonated familiarity in a way that horror films rarely, if ever, do. Watching this scene, I felt a strange sense of elation, reminded of how dreams can turn your biggest fears into your comforted allies. For a moment there, I wanted to be inside the film with the boy. Considering that there isn’t a single moment in director Takashi Shimizu’s Ju-On films where I can say the same, I think it’s safe to say that Rabbit Horror is his fascinating, if flawed, attempt to branch out.
The story begins with the compassionate murdering of an ill rabbit by Daigo, the aforementioned boy (Takeru Shibuya). Clearly troubled and disturbed by the bullying of his peers (“Rabbit murderer!” they taunt), he spends all his time with Kiriko (Hikari Mitsushima), his mute librarian half-sister. Kiriko takes on the responsibility to raise her little brother, as their father (Teruyuki Kagawa) isolates himself in his study working on pop-up books. Things in the film are relatively grounded in reality until a stuffed rabbit floats out of a 3D movie and into Daigo’s hands. Then, yeah, things get pretty nuts.
Across the board, the performances are solid, though Kagawa is definitely underused. Mitsushima in particular is effective in a number of scenes involving her attempts to communicate with a notepad. Why she hasn’t learned sign language I’m not sure, but it makes for some great tension when she’s trying to convince her father that she and her brother have seen…
Well, I’ll tell you this much: there’s a nod to Ju-On in this film that may be enough to convince some viewers that this is the same universe. You’ll know when you see it.
Some will definitely find the film slow or confusing. And there are some events in the last third of the film that will test any audience’s suspension of disbelief. The dreams are completely acceptable on their own, but once it’s established that the film is venturing completely out of the ethereal, Kiriko’s ability to get from A to B doesn’t feel as organic as dream sequences.
For a while, it seemed Rabbit Horror was going to be the long lost film of my youth – a truly fantastic Boogeyman movie about something innocent-turned-sinister and vice versa. It doesn’t go this route in any way whatsoever, but I still found the film highly enjoyable. While it lacks in frights, I felt it compensated more than enough with its moody atmosphere and the (maybe they are maybe they aren’t) dream sequences. The cinematography by Chris Doyle (“Duplings” in Three… Extremes) is great and his 3D (totally unnecessary save for the awesome titles and the movie theater scene) was well-lit.
In Japan, the film is being marketed as a riff on Alice in Wonderland. But cast aside the rabbit and a scene that was possibly inspired by “Through the Looking-Glass,” I felt it really has more in common with the earliest books of the “Goosebumps” series – in the best sense. I always had an idea of where the story was going, but going from A to B was unpredictable, and I was never sure if the book was going to end happy or tragically. As for Rabbit Horror‘s ending, I’m not sure if it’s right; the events feel inevitable, an extra twist that caps it all off feels a bit unfair to one of the characters. But is it a “Goosebumps” kind of ending? Hell yeah it is.
The nostalgic nightmarish feelings that Rabbit Horror 3D brought me to while I was watching it are more than enough to recommend it. You know that feeling in a nightmare when you see something terrifying at a distance, and it keeps getting closer, and closer, and closer? Yeah. That happens in this movie. And for the first time since I was a child, I had that nightmare again.